TOLEDO — Attorneys have agreed to dismiss a $750 million class-action lawsuit against Whirlpool Corp. that alleged the company's Clyde division was responsible for the local childhood cancer cluster.
The decision to dismiss was not related to a report Whirlpool Corp. released Oct. 31 that the company said shows the closed Whirlpool Park did not cause the Eastern Sandusky County Cancer Cluster, said attorney John Murray of Sandusky, who represents some of the people suing Whirlpool.
Whirlpool Park, which Whirlpool operated until 2006 and then sold it, is contaminated with cancer-causing toxins called PCBs. The report on testing done there, however, indicates those toxins are not leaving the property, said attorney Tom Bowlus of Fremont, who represents the current property owners.
The attorneys had been working on the paperwork to dismiss the lawsuit two or three weeks before the report was released, Murray said. He declined to discuss why his clients chose to withdraw the case.
"That's confidential," he said. "I don't have the clients' permission to discuss that."
The case is dismissed without prejudice, meaning it can be filed again. If the case is filed again, it must be filed in federal court, according to court records.
The lawsuit included an estimated 22 people who sued Whirlpool in March in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court. The case was moved to federal court on Oct. 31, court records show.
The current owners of Whirlpool Park, Grist Mill Creek LLC, a company owned by Jonathan and Robert Abdoo, also had been named as defendants in the lawsuit.
The Eastern Sandusky County Cancer Cluster affected at least 35 children in parts of Clyde, Green Creek Township and Fremont areas, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. OEPA has worked with other agencies to test drinking water, air and soil, and no cause has been found.
Whirlpool Corp. — whose Clyde plant makes washing machines and is Sandusky County's largest employer — operated the park from 1953 to 2006 and sold it to the Abdoos in 2008.
In a company newsletter dated Friday, Whirlpool notified its employees the lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed.
"We remain committed to defending ourselves against unfounded allegations made by plaintiff attorneys and will keep you informed of further developments in these cases," according to the newsletter, which a Whirlpool spokeswoman provided to The News-Messenger.
In 2012, U.S. EPA found sludge containing PCBs buried on the property. The report on testing Whirlpool conducted at the site confirmed those PCBs are there, and Whirlpool believes they may have been part of fill material placed on the site in the 1950s and '60s, company spokesman Jeff Noel said Oct. 31.
The results of the testing, which include soil and water samples, showed no contamination in the groundwater or Flag Run, a creek on the property.
Whirlpool plans to work with the Abdoos to clean up the land, Noel said.
A second lawsuit continues its way through the justice system, representing 42 other plaintiffs. The lead attorney for that case tells Channel 3 News unlike the case that was dropped Friday their case alleges the cancer causing agents were in the air as well as the dirt at Whirlpool Park.
"We think there is evidence of an airborne particulate that would explain the cancer cluster and how the cancer causing agent go to these children," said attorney Alan Mortensen. "Today's case that was dropped has no bearing on our case. We're moving forward and we're prepared to go forward."