June trial set in Tecumseh Products lawsuit
By DEB WUETHRICHA trial will take place in June 2012 in a lawsuit filed by Tecumseh attorney Charles Gross on behalf of Thomas and Robert Robarge, brothers who own property near the former Tecumseh Products facility. The suit involves claims of negligence in regard to hazardous chemicals in the ground affecting properties in the area. A trial date was set at a pre-trial hearing on Sept. 19 in Lenawee County Circuit Court. Gross has also filed a half-dozen lawsuits on behalf of other property owners in the area, with four filed on Sept. 16. A public information meeting on the possible contamination was held at the Tecumseh District Library on Sept. 12, and Gross said approximately 30 people attended.“They didn’t all live in that specific area, but there were people there who had been sent information about not being able to have a well in a certain district,” Gross said. He added that after the meeting, there were a few more clients who asked him to represent them in lawsuits.“We filed a couple more last week,” he said.The lawsuits must be handled individually since the Circuit Court denied class action status in Judge Margaret Noe’s court on Aug. 29. Noe had previously handed down a decision that the case did not have a good cause of action as a class action suit. A Michigan Court of Appeals decision said that there was, however, Noe again denied class action status. Property owners will have to prove contamination and damages for each property separately.“We’ll just have to handle them one by one,” said Gross.Attorneys from Tecumseh Products deny any affect on the safety and value of the neighboring properties, filing reports that state that declines in property values since the groundwater contamination was identified in 2009 is “the result of the general decline in residential home values in Michigan and elsewhere, and more specifically in Tecumseh,” Gross maintains that home values remain affected.He earlier stated that when a homeowner sells a house, they must disclose whether the property is contaminated or not, and since some Tecumseh homeowners have been informed that theirs could be, they would have to disclose that to a potential buyer.“A number of studies have shown that with properties in contaminated areas, even though it may not be a day to day issue, property values are affected,” Gross said. He said that owners and potential buyers may have problems borrowing against the property because of the contamination.Tecumseh Products entered into an administrative consent agreement order with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2010. The order includes a determination that notes “certain wastes and constituents found at the facility are hazardous wastes and/or hazardous constituents,” and that “There is or has been a release of hazardous wastes or hazardous constituents into the environment for the facility.” Copies of the form and other reports are available for viewing at Tecumseh City Hall. Monitoring wells also have been set up in the area to track any problems on an ongoing basis.There has been some concern in a few residences regarding vapor intrusion, with potential radon in basements, and Tecumseh Products officials have been working with the EPA to mitigate any potential problems there. Information regarding that situation will be provided among reports at City Hall when studies are concluded.