Summary judgment battle continues in chemical release suit

David Yates Nov. 30, 2010, 7:14am


After several hearings and two-plus years of litigation, a summary judgment battle continues in a chemical release suit against UCAR Pipeline, as the presiding judge recently bumped the case from his December docket.

In September 2008, Jefferson County resident Pearl Holmes, on behalf of herself and those similarly situated, filed suit against UCAR Pipeline and Texas Petrochemicals, alleging she and the other plaintiffs were injured on Oct. 18, 2007, when UCAR's Port Arthur pipeline ruptured and ignited.

Court documents show the root cause of the incident was a thinning wall, which buckled under pressure and released ethylene and other chemicals into the atmosphere.

The suit came to include more than 300 Port Arthur residents.

Earlier this year, plaintiffs' attorney Ronnie Jones filed a motion for summary judgment against UCAR after settling with another defendant in the suit.

Since that time, several fruitless summary judgment hearings have been held, court records show.

On Monday, Nov. 29, another hearing was held on the motion. Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, made no ruling but did, however, bump the case from his December docket – allowing Jones time to file a motion to dismiss.

In its response to the motion, UCAR maintains that "of the 323 plaintiffs, only a handful of them have seen a medical provider," and that the plaintiffs have failed to produce one credible expert to substantiate their claims.

Judge Floyd had previously ordered Jones to produce medical authorizations for every single plaintiff in the case.

"He has not," said UCAR attorney Ricky Raven during the hearing. "Either Mr. Jones forgets or doesn't understand the law in Texas."

Floyd said he would probably place the case on the February docket, allowing the parties time to hammer out their disagreements on the experts on the case.

Case No. E182-468

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