September 20, 2010-by Bob Femandez in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It was that plant, according to plaintiff claims, that dumped toxic chemicals into an unlined retention pond between the early 1960s and late 1970s. The chemicals traveled to nearby McCollum Lake through a shallow aquifer and a deepwater aquifer, the plaintiffs claim.
Joanne Branham, a restaurant night manager near Apache Junction, Ariz., flew into Philadelphia last week. She’s not here to tour the Constitution Center or shop in Manayunk.
Taking a hotel room near City Hall, Branham is a plaintiff in a complex and high-stakes environmental lawsuit that will play out in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court over the next two to three months. The trial starts Monday at 9:30 a.m. before Judge Allan L. Tereshko.
Branham’s husband, Frank, a former factory and construction worker, died of a glioblastoma brain tumor in 2004. He was 63 and had been a longtime resident of McCollum Lake Village in Illinois. The lawsuit claims that massive contamination oozing into the groundwater from a Morton International Inc. chemical plant about a mile from his home caused his cancer.
The defendant is Rohm & Haas Co., the former Philadelphia-based owner of the Morton plant, although the case is being handled by Rohm’s new corporate parent, the Dow Chemical Co.
The Branham case is the first of 31 related cases from picturesque McCollum Lake, in McHenry County, winding their way through the Philadelphia court system.
Branham’s attorney, Aaron Freiwald, says it’s one of the largest brain-cancer-cluster litigations to reach trial yet. The Branham outcome could set the stage for the related McCollum Lake cases.
Jurors were selected Wednesday, and on Thursday Tereshko issued an order cautioning both sides against speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, or maintaining websites that could prejudice the case.
“I don’t want to discuss the case substantively now that the trial has started, but after five years of preparation, obviously we’re ready to go,” Freiwald said late last week. (MORE)