CHARLESTON – Three class-action lawsuits over a Parkersburg warehouse fire have been removed to federal court.
The three cases originally were filed in Wood Circuit Court regarding the fire that started Oct. 21 and burned for eight days.
Attorneys with Bailey & Glasser are representing the defendants, who sought the removal to federal court. The defendants in the cases are Surnaik Holdings, Sirnaik LLC, Saurabh Naik, International Export Import Inc., Polymer Alliance Services LLC and Green Sustainable Solutions LLC.
The plaintiffs in the three complaints claim they suffered injuries from smoke inhalation and particulate matter in the air from the fire at the 420,000-square-foot facility. It was storing recyclable plastics for a company called IEI Plastics.
The plaintiffs claim they have suffered respiratory issues and are being subjected to an ongoing health risk. Some of them seek medical monitoring costs.
The defense attorneys sought removal to federal court, claiming it is the proper venue because the plaintiffs and proposed class are from West Virginia and Ohio. The population of the Parkersburg-Marietta area is about 90,000.
Each of the three complaints have different plaintiff’s attorneys. Parkersburg attorney David A. Sims and Charleston attorneys Kathy A. Brown and Timothy D. Houston are the attorneys in one case while Parkersburg attorneys James R. Leach and Victoria J. Sopranik as well as Steven D. Liddle and Nicholas A. Coulson of Liddle & Dubin in Detroit are handling another. The third is being handled by John. H. Skaggs, Alexander D. McLaughlin and Melissa H. Luce of The Calwell Practice in Charleston.
In the motion to remove the cases to federal court, the defense team – Michael B. Hissam, Ryan M. Donovan, Isaac R. Forman and J. Zak Ritchie – also say the plaintiffs’ $5 million figure is too low, saying that equals “just $60 per member of the alleged putative class, an amount easily dwarfed by any actual cleanup costs and/or medical damages. … The medical monitoring allegations, standing alone, plainly exceed $5,000,000.”
The cases have been assigned to U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas Johnston, and the defendants have been given until Dec. 27 to respond.
Last week, the state Supreme Court had issued an administrative order recusing Wood County circuit judges J.D. Beane, Robert Waters and Jason Wharton from hearing any cases related to the fire if they remained in Wood Circuit Court. Judge Thomas Bedell from Harrison County temporarily had been assigned to the cases before they were removed.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case numbers 2:17-cv-4386, 2:17-cv-4387 and 2:17-cv-4388