Audio: Amerities lawsuit settlement accepted by Circuit Court

Thursday, September 6, Circuit Court Judge John Wolf gave official approval to a settlement in the class action lawsuit against Amerities, the company creating creosote infused railroad ties in The Dalles.

Under terms of the agreement, Amerities agreed to create a $1.25 million fund to pay “persons owning and occupying or renting” residential property in The Dalles from Aug. 8, 2010 until the present. The company also agreed to install, within the next two years, $250,000 worth of measures “to minimize the impact of air emissions from the plant” and improve its “overall environmental performance.”\

The suit, which was filed August 8, 2016, originally asked for $20 million. Under final settlement terms, the lead plaintiff, Jeanine Connors, will receive $5,000 and the other plaintiffs will divide the rest, after plaintiff’s lawyers take $500,000 for their fees

In return the company gets a one-year cooling off period during which no odor nuisance suits may be filed. That does not prevent anyone from filing an odor suit after that year is up for problems with odor that take place after the settlement date.

After determining that attorneys for both the plaintiff and the defendant were in agreement on the terms of the settlement, Judge Wolf asked if any spectators had questions or comments.

One person was under the impression that accepting this settlement would prevent someone from filing a medical claims suit.

Nothing in the settlement pays for any alleged health damages or prevents anyone from filing suit for those damages, as plaintiff’s lawyer Nicholas Kahl was careful to note:

“This is an odor nuisance lawsuit for loss of use and enjoyment of your land,” he said in response to a comment from an audience member who thought that this settlement would preclude a medical claim. “And if you can find a doctor and medical expert  who would testify that what Amerities is producing actually caused your injuries, then you have a claim that is not barred by this and you can  probably find an attorney to prosecute that claim.”

And in response to a similar comment made by a member of the public, Judge John Wolf said that nothing in this suit silences anyone from commenting about the suit or the company.

“No one is requiring you to be silent at all,” he said, “You’re free to speak whenever and wherever about these issues.

After hearing one person question exact;y what how company plans to use the $250,000, Judge Wolf suggested an addition to the settlement that was approved by both sides. “… a requirement that the defendant provide an update report every six months in the two-year period during which they are to spend $250,000 on improvements, or until that amount has been spent.”

Residents of The Dalles who have not signed up to join the class action suit have until September 22 to do so in order to be compensated.

To hear the proceedings, which lasted just over 31 minutes, click on the grey podcast bar below: