Whirlpool faces 2nd lawsuit

A second class-action lawsuit has been filed against Whirlpool Corp. for its alleged role in the Clyde area’s childhood cancer cluster.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Toledo, names 24 plaintiffs, five of whom claim their children died as a result of Whirlpool’s dumping of toxic materials at Whirlpool Park and other sites.

Those five – Warren Brown of Clyde; Steven Keller, formerly of Clyde; Trina Donnersbach of Clyde; Teresa Bruggeman, whose daughter lived in Clyde; and Cinda McGilton of Clyde – had children who died from illnesses that included brain cancer.

“Whirlpool breached their duties of care owed to the Brown, Keller, Donnersbach, Bruggeman and McGuilton plaintiffs, and those other community members similarly situated whom have lost children from cancer, by disposing of chemicals in a dangerous and negligent way so as to kill said plaintiff’s children and others similarly situated,” the lawsuit states.

Others listed in the lawsuit claim illness, including cancer and Crohn’s disease, and mental disabilities are a result of the toxins.

The lawsuit also states that Whirlpool Corp. burned waste products, causing residual bezaldehyde to blanket the Clyde area.

In March, the cancer cluster families retained an environmental engineer to do dust sampling in several Clyde homes. Testing revealed bezaldehyde levels in every home to be above acceptable Environmental Protection Agency regional screening levels, according to the lawsuit.

The chemical, a known carcinogen and mutagen, is used by Whirlpool in Clyde in its manufacturing process, the lawsuit states.

Prior EPA testing at 14 former dump sites showed that regional screen levels of metals and other toxic materials also were high.

At Whirlpool Park, a 9.5-foot-deep layer of sludge found under the basketball court had PCBs and total metals exceeding the U.S. EPA regional screening levels, according to the lawsuit.

Whirlpool Corp. claims they didn’t know of the polluted soil, but witnesses claim dumping of toxic materials was occurring at the park through the 1990s and up to the time it was sold, the lawsuit states.

Along with wrongful death and personal injury, families are claiming ultra-hazardous activity on behalf of Whirlpool Corp., loss of property value and that the corporation is a continuing nuisance. They also are claiming Whirlpool’s manufacturing processes, including the disposal of chemicals, constituted a trespass on the plaintiffs’ property.

Phoebe Pinion, a Seneca County resident listed in the lawsuit, said her property abuts Whirlpool Park.

Pinion, who has lived at the residence for 34 years, said she was diagnosed with level-three ovarian cancer in 1994 and has suffered intestinal problems.

Pinion said her property value has been tremendously affected by its location.

“I want to put my house up for sale, and no one will buy it,” she said.

Pinion is planning to retire this year, and selling the house was part of her retirement plan.

Pinion, who is healthy now, said there have been health problems in all of the families around her.

“I’m hoping the EPA will step in and find a real problem with the cancer cluster,” she said. “The most important problem is finding the problem and fixing it so other kids don’t get sick.”

According to the lawsuit, plaintiffs are asking for a judgment against Whirlpool of more than $5 million, the cost to clean the homes of benzaldehyde dust, medical monitoring for members of the class who are not yet sick and punitive damages.

“We will vigorously defend Whirlpool, its employees, and the community against these allegations. Whirlpool has been part of the fabric of the Clyde community for more than 60 years and we remain committed to acting responsible,” said Kristine Vernier, Whirlpool Corp. spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Another class-action lawsuit filed in Sandusky County is seeking more than $750 million from Whirlpool for its alleged negligence that led to at least some illnesses in the Clyde area.