In 2008 the dam used by a coal ash storage facility at the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant in Roane County gave way spilling 7.3 million tons of toxic coal ash into the Emory River near the town of Kingston, TN., creating one of the largest industrial spills in U.S. history. The surge of ash wiped out roads and infrastructure, crumpled docks and destroyed homes. The initial spill resulted in no injuries or deaths, but over time, workers hired to clean up the spill became sick. Some have passed away but some continue to live with serious illnesses due to coal ash exposure.
Coal ash — the byproduct of burning coal to produce electricity — contains at least 26 toxins, carcinogens, heavy metals, and radioactive isotopes. It contains the same silica quartz dust as coal but in a more concentrated form. Coal ash must be properly disposed of after it has been burned, and coal-burning power plants create massive amounts for disposal.
Attorney Jim Scott began the fight for these ill workers in 2013. As time passed and the case grew, Mr. Scott asked Mr. Dupree to come on board to assist with the litigation. Since that time, Mr. Dupree, Mr. Scott, and several attorney friends have been litigating the workers' health claims in federal court. The lawsuits have been consolidated into four rounds of claims. The first round includes claims initially filed in 2013 while the next three rounds were filed after 2017.
Litigating these claims has been a monumental task. Mr. Dupree and his co-counsel represent over 300 workers and their families for their injuries. There have been almost 500 pleadings filed in the first round case alone. Motion after motion has been fought by the Plaintiff team. But this project has been worth it.
In October 2018, a month-long trial began for the first round of worker claims. Over 30 witnesses testified - including experts hired by the defense and the Plaintiffs. Workers from the site went toe to toe with nationally known trial attorneys hired by the defendant. And the workers won. On November 7, 2018, the jury returned a verdict entirely favorable to the first round Plaintiffs.
Mr. Dupree and his lawyer friends continue to move these important cases forward. Professionally, the project has been a challenge. However, Mr. Dupree continues the fight because these coal ash workers are friends and neighbors. These are folks that could be an uncle, brother, sister, father or grandfather. This was Tennessee land that was ruined by the ash spill. This is a case worth fighting.
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