Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hipps Toxic Awards Fall

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hipps Toxic Awards Fall

Article excerpt

A federal appeals court yesterday exonerated the Navy from

responsibility for years of toxic waste dumping that

contaminated drinking water near the Hipps Road Landfill on

Jacksonville's Westside.

The ruling overturned a federal judge's 1995 order that 86

people could get government compensation for sicknesses and

deaths caused by the pollution.

"This is just real strange," said Gail Speicher, whose family

had been awarded $181,000 under the earlier ruling.

Waste from two Navy bases was dumped at Hipps Road by a garbage

hauling company in the 1960s. Toxins including arsenic, benzene

and PCBs leached from the dump into the water table, where they

polluted wells that supplied the neighborhood's drinking water

until the 1980s.

Hipps Road was declared a Superfund site and was the subject of

an extensive cleanup.

The Hipps Road neighbors' suit, and the 1995 ruling by U.S.

District Judge Prentice Marshall, had been regarded by some

lawyers as a model case for people suing government agencies

over pollution.

Marshall had ordered that 11 people would receive a total of

$1.7 million. He had ruled they and 75 others could also seek

additional money in the future as they incurred medical expenses

from illnesses they could prove were caused by the landfill's

pollution.

But government lawyers took the case to the 11th U.S. Circuit

Court of Appeals in Atlanta, arguing that Marshall's ruling had

misapplied the Federal Tort Claims Act. The act allows federal

agencies to be held liable for wrongdoing to the same extent

that a private individual would be.

Yesterday's ruling sided with the government lawyers, who

argued that the Navy had delegated its responsibility for waste

disposal to the contractor.

The contractor had committed to handle the Navy's waste in a

proper manner. …

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