Lawsuits filed against Kaiser going to mediationLEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / December 15, 1999LAPLACE – An out-of-court mediation could settle in three months more than 40 lawsuits filed as a result of the July 5 explosion at Kaiser, which sent a cloud of dust over much of Gramercy and shut down the plant.

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 15, 1999

LaPlace attorney Daniel Becnel Jr., chairman of the mediation committeehe crafted Dec. 7 with the blessing of U.S. District Judge Edith BrownClement, said the procedure will put the matter to rest in a fraction of the time, heading off years of expensive litigation.

“Why not try something new?” Becnel said. “Let’s mediate.”A host of lawsuits were filed by employees, businesses and homeowners in two district courts. These were bumped to federal court by Kaiser’sattorneys, Becnel said, and consolidated into Carl Bell et al versus Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corp.

Becnel spent the last two months in weekly meetings with dozens of attorneys, and the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee was established on Dec.


Kaiser and the committee each named a mediator to work out the settlement in a non-court environment. “It’s a very innovative method,”Becnel said.

An Evaluation Committee is co-chaired by Steve Murray and Gerald Meunier. The Proof of Claims Committee is co-chaired by Walter Dumasand David Scalia and opened up a claims office, where claimants will make sworn statements to a notary. The Inside the Gate Committee (dealingwith employee injury claims) is co-chaired by Thomas Kliebert, Robert Becnel and Wendell Gauthier.

The Executive Committee, chaired by Becnel, includes Kliebert, Murray, Dumas, Richard J. Arsenault (also serving as liaison counsel), Russ Hermanand Geri Baloney.

According to the rules for the mediation, the plaintiff attorneys plans a 10/3 escrow, where 10 percent of all gross recoveries will be set aside to cover attorney’s fees, and 3 percent for costs.

Individual plaintiffs may withdraw at any time and if litigation is decided upon, the opposite side would not object.

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