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BIOLAB CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT: Deadline is set for settlement

Photo by Production WBKO

Photo by Production WBKO

CONYERS -- Federal courts have set filing deadlines for those wishing to make a claim or be excluded in a class action lawsuit settlement for damages caused by the 2004 BioLab fire.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court of New York City last week set Jan. 5 as the deadline for anyone wishing to join a class action lawsuit settlement from the BioLab fire. A notice released by the court said a $7 million settlement fund is being created to pay claims arising from the fire that occurred May 25-26 at BioLab's Plant 14 and warehouse of finished goods.

The notice said the claims are to be compensated to persons who lived, owned property, worked, were scheduled to work or were present in the settlement class area on the day of the fire. Businesses located in the settlement class area and plaintiffs with claims in other lawsuits are also eligible to join the class action settlement.

The settlement class area covers all of the city of Conyers, surrounding areas and an area following Interstate 20 into western Newton County, which follows the path of the chlorine gas cloud produced by the fire. The area roughly covers the DeKalb County line to Crowell Road in Newton County from west to east and Hi Roc Road to Flat Shoals and Fairview roads from north to south.

A cause of the BioLab fire was never determined. An early morning explosion at the 200,000-square-foot BioLab building on Old Covington Highway produced a thick, gray plume of toxic smoke a half-mile wide and parallel to I-20 and into Newton County.

The incident shut down the interstate and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate.

Payouts are determined by a formula based on location of the claimants when they were affected by the fire. Those claims from the evacuation area would be higher than those outside the evacuation area but inside the wider settlement class area.

Individual claim payments are estimated at about $230 for those inside the evacuation area and $59 for those outside the evacuation area. Estimated payout to local businesses would go up to $4,000 inside and up to $1,000 outside the evacuation area, according to the court notice.

Those who submit a claim form to the class action settlement lose their right to file a different lawsuit against the company. The court notice states that all other pending lawsuits would be dismissed following the class action award settlement. The courts did offer an option to be excluded from the class action settlement. Those wishing to do so must do so by Nov. 12.

Since the fire, BioLab's parent company, Chemtura, filed for bankruptcy protection on March 18, 2009. The court's notice states the procedure for debt settlement from the company's bankruptcy filings is separate from the process involving damages claims from the 2004 fire.

In August, Chemtura announced it had filed a plan of reorganization with the federal bankruptcy courts and was moving forward on leaving Chapter 11 protection.

To file a claim or for more information, visit www.conyersfiresettlement.com or call 800-345-0837.