A group of families in Palm Beach County, Florida, filed a class action lawsuit in February against defense contractor Pratt & Whitney, alleging that the company is responsible for a cancer cluster in the Acreage, a local pastoral community. This is the first class action lawsuit filed regarding the accusations against Pratt & Whitney, however more families are coming forward and more lawsuits and litigation are expected. This initial lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach and is asking to seek damages for more than 10,000 homeowners and residents.
Florida’s Department of Health first began investigating reports of illness and cancer cases last year. The allegations and evidential statistics have created a ripple of heated emotions among residents, as the neighborhood boasts an unusually higher rate of brain cancer in children and teenagers. However, despite the allegations and supporting evidence, the Department of Health has yet to identify a source for the cancer causes, nor has it been implied that Pratt & Whitney are indeed responsible.
The plaintiffs’ primary complaint against the defense contractor is that the presence and storage of hazardous chemicals for the past 60 years has created an unhealthy situation, concurrently and considerably lowering the property value in their community, which is located less than four miles from the Pratt & Whitney property in question. None of the plaintiffs have developed cancer, however they cite the reported cases of disease as the main reason for their inability to maintain worth and equity in their homes.
Pratt & Whitney first established a presence in the Palm Beach County area in the late 1950s. The plaintiffs are alleging that from that period on, the defense contractor stored and produced hazardous and toxic chemicals that eventually seeped into the land surrounding the Acreage, via the Beeline Highway. The community also faced a major health issue last year when a Palm Beach Post investigation discovered that thousands of private water wells had been dug illegally and hazardously shallow. The shallow wells made it considerably easier for pollutants to get into the water supplies, and are believed to have increased and possibly catalyzed the impending detrimental health agents.
As early as 1979, Pratt & Whitney had been responsible for a considerable amount of toxic spills. In 1980, the company announced the possibility of workers on-site in Palm Beach County being exposed to cancerous agents. The contractor, however, insists that its public safety record is clean and that any exposed toxic substances have either been cleaned and disposed of in conjunction with state and federal regulations, or any residual substances have not migrated enough to affect any neighboring communities.
Leading up to and since the date of class action filing, a number of experts and health professionals have conducted studies and surveys, with the results being either inconclusive or in some cases favoring Pratt & Whitney. Many officials have been unable to identify the company as the source of any contaminates. Unfortunately, with some toxic tort cases, it can take years and even decades for substantial evidence to be collected. In the case of the Acreage, at least 13 families have children who have been diagnosed with brain cancer or central nervous system damage in the past 16 years. Health experts and officials have been unable to pin blame on any specific cause, and everyone involved fears that a source may never be found.
Recent tests of the area and groundwater by the Florida Department of Health have shown that the water is of good quality and that there are only minor sources of elevated radiation, something that can occur naturally. The department surveyed 21 properties in the community, however the results gave little hope for a determinant cause of these illnesses.
The DOH had medical and health experts test homes – including individual rooms in each – as well as outside. Some homeowners have installed extensive water treatment systems in their houses, and the experts tested those as well. The DOH will continue to conduct tests and surveys with the hopes of uncovering the cause of these debilitating and fatal cancers. Also included in the examination are the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
If you or a loved one has experienced health complications or illness because of hazardous environmental conditions, or if you have questions concerning toxic torts and class action lawsuits, contact Newsome Law Firm and fill out a case evaluation form today. Our team of attorneys has experience specific to complications associated with environmental contamination and toxic poisoning. Not only can they give you the legal guidance you need, they can help you get the compensation you deserve.