By: Pam Sohn - Chattanooga Times Free Press
TVA is seeking immunity from financial liability for the Dec. 22 Kingston fly ash spill.
In a Knoxville hearing Thursday in federal court, Tennessee Valley Authority attorneys agreed to an April 17 deadline to file a motion to dismiss all of the cases in their entirety based on TVA’s claim of “discretionary function” immunity.
TVA spokesman Gil Francis declined comment on court actions Thursday, but said TVA plans to be in federal court next week to defend against the myriad of lawsuits now combined into one case.
Residents’ attorney Elizabeth Alexander said TVA is claiming that, as a federal government entity, it cannot be sued.
“On the one hand, TVA has made representations to the community that they want to make everything better and, on the other hand in the court, they’re seeking complete immunity from responsibility,” she said after the hearing.
The cases are the result of more than 1.1 billion gallons of ash sludge falling into the Emory River and rural farmland in Harriman and Kingston, Tenn., when a earthen berm landfill wall collapsed.
Bob Giltnane, a plaintiff in the case, said he was shocked by TVA’s position.
“I don’t understand why TVA thinks it can devastate our community, families and businesses, and then claim TVA can avoid accountability for its actions,” he said in a statement prepared by the law firm. “TVA should take responsibility for what it has done to us.”
The purchases include properties from less than one-quarter acre in size to more than 20 acres. About $20 million was paid for the total of about 225 acres bought, TVA spokesman Gil Francis said this afternoon.
Those just outside the area are still in limbo, but TVA says it has been working to help those most affected get compensated.Others who are also nearby and are affected are being shut out, said an attorney for some of those just outside the immediate area.
“Thousands and thousands of other folks in Roane County impacted by the spill have not gotten any money from the TVA,” said Mark Chalos, attorney with Lieff, Cabraser law firm in Nashville, representing about 20 individuals, families and businesses.
The firm has also filed a class action lawsuit, asking for medical monitoring of family, environmental testing and compensation for any harm.
“TVA has created this impression that …’We’ll get to you eventually.'
“What they’re doing in legal terms is trying to get the court to find they’re immune and don’t have to pay anybody anything for the harms they’ve caused.”
Friday, April 10, 2009
TVA seeks financial “immunity” in ash spill cases
Immunity from liability seems to be the norm if you are a government entity, bank or large corporation.