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Federal judge dismisses additional lawsuits in connection with warehouse fire

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal judge has dismissed additional lawsuits filed against the owners and customers of a large industrial warehouse in Parkersburg where a major fire happened just more than a year ago.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston ruled against the plaintiffs in the IEI warehouse fire. He made a similar ruling against a number of other plaintiffs in August.

Charleston attorney Mike Hissam, who represents the warehouse owners, said the claims are meritless.

“This was smoke from a warehouse fire and there just isn’t evidence that people were harmed in the way that’s set forth in these complaints and the judge is demanding that there be some actual, credible allegation as to how people were affected by these fires,” Hissam said.

Judge Johnston dismissed most of the claims against SABIC Innovative Plastics, Kuraray America Inc. and a group of Sirnaik-affiliated companies. He did give the plaintiffs the opportunity to refile a new complaint by January.

A few of the claims are still alive in state court. Harrison County Circuit Judge Thomas Baddell has been appointed to hear the cases. Hissam said those are a long way from trial.

“We will continue to vigorously defend those cases,” Hissam said.

Johnston’s August order, similar to Monday’s filing, dismissed the counts of public nuisance, private nuisance, negligence, gross negligence, trespass, medical monitoring and unjust enrichment. He left the count alleging negligent infliction of emotional distress as part of the lawsuit.

In Monday’s order, Johnston dismissed the plaintiffs’ class action claims of trespass, private nuisance, public nuisance, negligent infliction of emotional distress, medical monitoring, unjust enrichment, declaratory judgment, and veil-piercing.

The six-day fire at the facility near Camden Avenue in south Parkersburg produced 40,000 tons of burned material. Gov. Jim Justice issued a check to Wood County officials in early December 2017 for $1.466 million to reimburse them for expenses related to fighting the fire. The cause of the blaze has never been determined.

Hissam said Monday the owners continue to work to remediate the site.

“My clients have been committed from the beginning to cleaning up the site and to restore it to a remediated environmental site. That work is virtually done,” Hissam said.

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