Granite City Residents Settle With Steel Mill and Bottling Plant
Residents in Granite City, Illinois, who said their property was damaged by alleged particulate matter and odorous gases released from SunCoke Energy Inc. and Gateway Energy and Coke Company may be entitled to settlement funds. The two companies denied all allegations by residents that particulate matter and foul-smelling gases coming from their steel mill and coke plant left silt-like film over the neighborhood, covering vehicles and decreasing property values. However, the did agree to settle a subsequent class action lawsuit filed for $4.25 million due to overall uncertainty and the risk associated with continued litigation.
The settlement paperwork reads, “The Defendants deny the allegations. However, Plaintiffs and Defendants have concluded that the proposed Settlement is in their best interests and the interests of the proposed settlement class.”
Plaintiffs Peggy Keltner, Jerome Johnson, Beverly Johnson and Melinda Duniphan originally filed the class action case three years prior to the deadline for inclusion, in November 2014. The named plaintiffs alleged they and other class members who lived nearby in Granite City had been subjected to unacceptable exposure to airborne pollutants which posed health concerns. They claimed these emissions, overall, deprived them of the full use and enjoyment of their property and caused an unfair and unprecedented nuisance. They sued the companies specifically for claims of temporary nuisance, trespass, and negligence.
Anyone who owned property in a certain part of Granite City from 2009-2017 was eligible for the funds and needed to file for inclusion. Residents had to file to be a part of the lawsuit by November 2017. Unfortunately, the deadline has passed for anyone who failed to do so. Those who opted in will receive an average of $350-$1,250 per household from SunCoke, as announced in the final terms, but the total payout could range anywhere from $33-$2,500.
According to the guidelines, there are seven different tiers of settlement payments that take into account whether a member of the qualifying class was a homeowner or rented their residence in Granite City, and each of the properties is assigned to one of the seven tiers based on this information. Payments to residents will also be determined in part by when and how long the individual owned or occupied their property near the mill and plant, the far the property is from the defendants’ properties, and where the class member’s property is located relative to air modeling data acquired over the course of the case. Those who qualify for payments based on occupancy without ownership will not be entitled to compensation for any time during which they lived outside the settlement class area, only for any period in which they resided nearby.
Any member of the settlement class seeking to rescind their involvement and be excluded from the class can do so and must send a timely written and signed request for opt-out complying with the procedures to the Claims Administrator within sixty calendar days of the resolution date. “Members who opt-out shall neither receive any benefits of, nor be bound by, the terms of the Settlement Agreement,” the agreement reiterates.