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Appeals court decides on Oak Ridge toxic exposures claims

 
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Ellen
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Joined: 15 May 2004
Posts: 209
Location: Oak Ridge, Tennessee

PostPosted: Sun Jul 18, 2004 11:16 pm    Post subject: Appeals court decides on Oak Ridge toxic exposures claims Reply with quote

Last Thursday the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling against the plaintiffs in two lawsuits about health problems from past exposures to toxic substances released from federal government facilities in Oak Ridge. This means the plaintiffs, including residents of Oak Ridge's Scarboro community who believe they were harmed by offsite contamination from Y-12, as well as other area residents who believe that their thyroid cancers were caused by Oak Ridge radioactive releases, will not be able to collect on their claims.

The news story about the court decision appeared in many papers (click here to read it in the Oak Ridger) and you can even read the full court decision online.


Last edited by Ellen on Wed Jul 21, 2004 11:32 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Ellen
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Joined: 15 May 2004
Posts: 209
Location: Oak Ridge, Tennessee

PostPosted: Sun Jul 18, 2004 11:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

These lawsuits have been frustrating for the people who believe they were harmed by exposure to toxic substances in the environment. It must be intensely stressful to believe that you have been harmed by -- and to fight -- a large and powerful institution that you think is hiding information from you.

I fear this court decision will continue that frustration. Sad This is because the ruling is based on legal "technicalities," not on the "facts" of whether or not the residents were harmed. (Actually, most legal matters are decided this way -- the courts are much more skilled at juding law than at judging facts.)

In this case, the court said that the statute of limitations ran out before the suit was filed. The court said that people who thought they were being harmed by environmental contaminants could have sued many years earlier, when information about the contamination first became widely known, and it is now too late to sue. Also, the court said that the Scarboro residents did not have a good legal basis for their claim that whatever contaminant exposure they had received was the direct result of racial discrimination. Finally, the court did not find a good basis for treating these claims as class-action lawsuits.

Frustrating as it may be, I hope the plaintiffs will accept the court decisions as final and try to move forward with their lives. Although the case was decided in grounds of law, from my study of the situation I believe that the facts were also not on the side of the plaintiffs. Surprised

People have been looking very hard for evidence of people being harmed by past environmental exposures, and they have not succeeded in finding such evidence. If the evidence were there, they almost certainly would have found it by now. Confused There also is no contamination to clean up in the Scarboro neighborhood. Cool The possibility of having gotten cancer or another disease because of past environmental exposures to radioactive contaminants that might have entered the community truly is so very small that it is impossible to identify cases, especially so many years after the exposure might have happened. Neutral

I think it's time to stop focusing on worrying about the possibility of a problem, and get on with making the most of how ever many years we have left in this world. Thumbs Up
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