Kaiser suit settlement on Monday

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Managing Editor

LAPLACE – Next week, starting Monday and continuing through Dec. 22, thousands of people will take their turns at receiving checks of various amounts – all part of the $35 million settlement with Kaiser Aluminum and other defendants, stemming from the July 5, 1999 explosion.

LaPlace attorney Danny Becnel Jr. on Friday announced the disbursement of the funds and sent letters to those recipients who will be receiving the checks. He said he could not discuss individual amounts, as it varied greatly, depending upon the damage involved and the distance from the explosion.

“It couldn’t come at a better time, right before Christmas,” Becnel observed.

The 5:20 a.m. explosion wrecked several tanks. Caustic sodium hydroxide, used in the refining process of bauxite, splashed several workers and other workers sustained concussions, according to a Louisiana State Police spokesman immediately following the explosion.

Four employees were taken to Baton Rouge General Hospital, two in critical condition. Settlements were reached by all employees some three years after the accident.

The explosion could not have come at a worse time. The plant was snarled in a labor strike, which began Sept. 30, 1998 and temporary workers manned the plant, rather than the experienced employees, many long-term, who were then manning the picket lines at the gates. The strikers did not return to work until Oct. 23, 2000.

Twenty minutes prior to the explosion, a power failure struck at the plant, according to picketers on duty at the time. The 16 picketers were located at the gates on 3213 and on Airline Highway.

Their claim was substantiated in November 2001, a St. James Parish jury ruled that Kaiser, along with two electrical contractors, were responsible for the explosion.