Meyers & Flowers and Rockford-based Clark Frost Zucchi have filed some of the first lawsuits against Chemtool Incorporated and owner Lubrizol Corporation representing residents living near the Rockton industrial grease manufacturer. The suit alleges the company was negligent and failed to exercise reasonable care that would have prevented last Monday’s catastrophic chemical fire that forced residents and businesses within a one-mile radius around the plant to evacuate.
The lawsuit filed Monday in Winnebago County Circuit Court on behalf of residents, who were among the 150 homes displaced by last Monday's chemical plant fire, accuses Chemtool of putting the Rockton community and the surrounding areas in danger for failing to have a fire suppression system for the entire facility. A second lawsuit was filed the next day, June 22rd.
Founding Partner Peter J. Flowers spoke with the Rockton Register Star and other local media about the lawsuit: "Each individual will have different damages, damages that can range from the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. If you seek to go the class action route, you may not get each individual fully covered. So over the next days, weeks and months you will see us filing individual case after individual case."
As outlined in the lawsuit, it is believed that the initial fire in the lubricant factory would have been contained had an operating fire suppression system been in place. Due to the lack of an operating system, the fire was not controlled and spread quickly, triggering multiple explosions.
The “cataclysmic explosion” rocked Chemtool, the largest producer of industrial grease in the country, located in Rockton of Winnebago County, Illinois. The resultant fire spread rapidly throughout the facility, effectively leveling it while spouting a heavy plume of smoke, soot, and chemicals into the atmosphere. The plume was large enough to be captured on weather radar systems and extended for miles.
In response, residents within a one-mile radius of the plant were ordered to evacuate with all people within three miles urged to wear a mask. Over 150 firefighters from over 40 regional agencies mobilized to fight the massive blaze before determining to quit fighting the fire with water and opting to employ a chemical foam to smother the fire. The foam was implemented to prevent toxic runoff into the local river, but it only made matters worse, considering the US Fire Pumps chose to use a foam containing fluorinated surfactant (PFAs) – known as “forever chemicals”. New health and environmental concerns arose in that these chemicals do not degrade in the environment or human body.
For several days, the black smoke-plume rained contaminated debris and covered the area in potentially hazardous soot. At this point in time, the severity of the plaintiff’s and community’s damages are still being determined as further investigation and time will expose the toxicity of the chemicals emitted into the Rockton area and the long-term health effects linked to the pollutants.
“Nothing has been done to test the ground on any of these homes,” said Peter Flowers during his interview with the Chicago Tribune. “These people have a 2-year-old child who plays outside every day. It’s not necessarily the things that you see that are damaging. It’s the things you don’t see that could damage you.”
The lawsuit seeks to hold Chemtool Inc. accountable for property damage and potential negative health effects caused by the avoidable fire. The lawsuit filing details that Chemtool and Lubrizol had a duty to operate their plant with ordinary care so as to prevent the release of contaminants and other debris into the environment as well as failed to uphold their responsibility to have an adequate operating fire suppression system. Furthermore, the company failed to implement emergency and disaster preparedness measures to lessen the negative impact to the community.
Meyers & Flowers is filings claims on behalf of people, businesses, and organizations residing or located within a several mile radius of the facility to award monetary compensation for:
- Vapor intrusion;
- Contamination of property;
- Risk of adverse health effects;
- Remediation costs to remove debris from properties;
- The lost use and enjoyment of their property and lives;
- The diminution in value of their property.
Meyers & Flowers has a decades-long history of seeking justice for people of all walks of life and socio-economic conditions who have been affected by corporate negligence and dangerous situations. Our team of experienced trial attorneys alongside some of the best experts in the country intend to uncover and expose all of the wrongdoing which led to this preventable tragedy. We stand ready to help you in this time of need and demand answers from Chemtool.
Meyers & Flowers is encouraging those effected by the Rockton chemical plant explosion and subsequent evacuation order to please contact our Illinois trial attorneys at (630) 232-6333, [email protected] or request a free case evaluation on our website to explore your legal options.