Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Lawsuit: Attorney Scores $120 Million Damages Settlement For Homeowners Unwittingly Living Atop Tons Of Toxic Oil Waste Secretly Buried By Developer Decades Earlier, Then Stiffs Them Out Of Million$, Refusing To Give Them Thorough Accounting Of Loot Required To Be Held In Lawyer's Trust Account

In Carson, California, the Daily Breeze reports:
  • Carson residents living for years atop an old oil-waste dump are suing the famed personal injury attorney who negotiated their $120 million legal settlement, claiming his firm is hoarding millions it should have disbursed long ago.

    Thomas Girardi, who has won more than $1 billion for victims of severe pollution, prescription-drug side effects and other hazards during a storied career, and his powerhouse Los Angeles law firm, Girardi-Keese, are named in the suit filed last month by residents of the polluted Carousel tract neighborhood.

    Some residents have been paid in full since the July 2016 settlement with those responsible for the toxic soup that lies beneath their homes, while others have received only a fraction of the proceeds. For months the Carousel residents have been waging a war of words with Girardi-Keese, claiming the delays in getting the funds to everyone are inexcusable.

    Almost a year later we received a piddly amount to placate us and a bunch of unfounded excuses why they continue to hold onto our money,” said Barbara Post, president of the Carousel Tract Homeowners Association. “We just want what is ours and to get Girardi-Keese out of our lives forever.”

    No one in the Carousel tract neighborhood knows how much of the total settlement has been paid out yet. Or, for that matter, what the balance is in the trust account where Girardi is legally required to hold their funds.

    The 50-acre Carousel tract, in south Carson along the Wilmington border, was built on land formerly occupied by a Shell Oil Co. tank farm that was dismantled in the late 1960s. Tons of waste oil and tank pieces were secretly buried by the property developer, Barclay Hollander Corp., which has since dissolved into Dole Food Co.

    The oil, left just a few feet beneath the ground on a parcel where 285 homes would later be built, exposed residents to cancer-causing benzene and other toxic chemicals for decades.

    A few years after the pollution was discovered during routine testing in 2008, Girardi was hired by 1,491 current and former Carousel tract residents. Eight years of legal wrangling later, his firm negotiated a $90 million settlement with Shell Oil for health and property damage in the neighborhood. A second $30 million settlement with Dole Food Co., which owns the property developer, is pending.

    Girardi-Keese also negotiated more than $100 million in environmental cleanup of yards across the neighborhood.

    Dole and Shell are battling in court over who will ultimately have to pay all the bills.

    Girardi-Keese’s share of the $90 million settlement will be at least $36 million, and the firm will get another $12 million from the Dole proceeds.

    The suit against Girardi-Keese argues the firm refuses to give Carousel residents a thorough accounting of the money. It also demands that residents receive interest accrued on the large sum sitting in the bank, but the law firm insists that money must be turned over to the State Bar.


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