A bill that provides special legal protection to the Doe Run Company is waiting for Governor Jay Nixon’s approval, after it passed in the Missouri Legislature on Wednesday. This bill would contain and limit lawsuits by people who suffered injuries from exposure to both chat piles and lead mine tailing’s in St. Francois County, Missouri. The Doe Run Resources Corporation, the owner of the mining site, would face around $2.5 million dollars in punitive damages for each individual lawsuit.
Wednesday evening, the Senate added in the provision to the bill, which starting as a simple naming of a Missouri Department of Natural Resources Facility, and quickly morphed into a hundred-something page environmental bill. In the session, the House agreed with Senate updates and passed the bill by a rather large margin. Governor Nixon has not yet stated his stance on the issues contained within.
Doe Run, the corporation which operates mining operations in Reynolds County, Missouri, and a smelter in Jefferson County, Missouri released a statement saying that large damage awards could force it to go out of business. So, their financial interests are ahead of the interests of the individuals that suffered losses and damages as a result of the company.
Doe Run became worried following a jury assessment of $320 million dollars in punitive damages back in 2011 against Fluor Corporations for a lead pollution case in Jefferson County, Missouri. Under the new bill, however, the company would be exempted from all punitive damages if it was said to be re-mediating in good-faith efforts. The bill sites that damages for health problems and lost earnings could potentially still be assessed.
Currently, the Doe Run corporation is facing several lawsuits. Most were filed before 2005, when legislators passed a law capping punitive damages at $500,000, or up to five times the compensatory damages. Fortunately, the pre-2005 lawsuits against Doe Run do not fall under that cap.
Among those who vehemently oppose the bill are the Missouri Associate of Trial Attorneys. Republican Representative Jay Barnes of Jefferson City says that keeping a company financially viable and in business, is not fair grounds for absolving it of all legal blame. He shared that the only group with the power to make that decision is a jury of 12 Missourians, comparing evidence from both sides. Likewise, Senate Minority Leader Jolie Justice-D expressed similar reservations about this bill; she stated that making legislation for one company is an extremely dangerous precedent.
Doe Run has admittedly spent several millions of dollars cleaning up the old mines and chat sites, under orders from the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The question we ask is if they have cleaned up and are as good as they say they are, why do they need protection? If Governor Nixon does indeed pass this bill into a Missouri law, it would be a sad day for Missourians, robbed of their 7th amendment constitutional right of a trial by jury.
Ultimately, if you or a loved one has suffered any damages or losses from a lead poisoning incident, you are entitled by the 7th amendment to file a lawsuit for compensation. Call a Missouri lead poisoning lawyer today to discuss your potential case for free. The ramifications of lead-related injuries are serious, call on a serious injury lawyer to represent you. Contact a lead injury lawyer today by dialing 314.409.7060, 855.40.CRASH, or contact us online at http://www.accidentlawyerstlouis.com/.