Whirlpool faces $750M suit

A $750 million class-action lawsuit was filed Thursday against Whirlpool Corp., claiming its negligence led to at least some illnesses in the Clyde area.

The lawsuit, filed in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court, also claims Whirlpool concealed the disposal of toxic waste, including PCBs, at Whirlpool Park, at CR 187 and CR 181 near Clyde.

The lawsuit, which names three families as plaintiffs, seeks $750 million in punitive damages and more than $25,000 in compensatory damages, attorney Joseph Albrechta said. Albrechta and his law partner, John Coble, are representing the families, who live or lived near the former park.

The lawsuit alleges exposure to toxic waste at the park caused the death of 23-year-old Christina Lagrou. Lagrou, who was reared within 1,500 feet of the park, died from large cell lymphoma. Her husband, Tim Lagrou, is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Another family named in the lawsuit, the Mark Gill family, lives near the former park and has a child who experienced neurological damage, which is caused by PCB exposure, Albrechta said.

The third family is the Meloney Gill family.

“For many years, the residents living within the cancer cluster, ranging from the northeastern portion of Sandusky County into southeastern Ottawa County and northwestern Erie County, have been forced to deal with unexplained cancer rates and deaths of children and young adults, all while the Whirlpool Corp. reports annual sales of up to $19 billion a year,” stated a release issued by Albrechta & Coble Ltd.

Albrechta said a lot of science and work needs to be done regarding the PCBs that were discovered during a site assessment of Whirlpool Park in November by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

He said during the assessment, it was discovered that a basketball court at the park had been built on top of 9.5 feet of toxin-laden sludge.

According to the lawsuit, an increase in reported cancer rates in the “cancer cluster” geographic region began in winter 2005.

Albrechta said his law firm has been working with clients allegedly affected by the toxic waste at the park since the investigation started, and he expects more families may come forward.

Albrechta said he is hoping for full and complete disclosure on behalf of Whirlpool. The next step in court is the process of discovery and scheduling a pre-trial.

In a release issued Thursday, Whirlpool spokeswoman Kristine Vernier said, “We are currently reviewing the lawsuit filed today. As a member of the community for over 60 years, with more than 3,000 employees in the area, we are also very interested in figuring out the facts behind this ongoing issue. We are working closely with the current property owner, the U.S. EPA and the Ohio EPA to address the issues at the former Whirlpool Park through the Ohio EPA Voluntary Action Program. We have submitted a Phase I Property Assessment Report and Phase II Work Plans for comment and approval by both agencies.”