Tue, Oct 8, 2019

A Long, Complex Environmental Class Action Settlement

Environmental class action lawsuits are rarely simple and straightforward. For Dow and Rockwell, the two companies that operated the Rocky Flats Nuclear Power Plant, a 1990 class action would take more than 26 years to settle. The process included a trial over four months long, two appeals in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and two rounds of briefing regarding petitions for writs of certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court. Though the action began in 1990, the $375 million settlement distribution work did not commence until 2016. Our team administered the settlement at the end of this highly complex and decades-long litigation.

Environmental Class Action Settlement Distribution

Collecting and Validating Older Claim Data

The class was defined as anyone who owned property in the area surrounding the Rocky Flats Nuclear Power Plant, where radioactive elements like plutonium allegedly leaked out into the surrounding soils. However, the fact that the alleged incident occurred in 1989 meant handling the historic data for class members who may have long since moved away. As settlement administrator, we worked to identify aging data for affected landowners. More than 11,000 claimants opted-in to the settlement. Our team verified heirs or successors with supplemental documentation and used skip tracing to locate class members who relocated.

Reaching Class Members from the 1980s

Most of the original class members were still located in the Denver area, but younger heirs and successors of deceased class members could be spread across the country. Our expert notice plan included 28,179 direct mail notices, extensive publication in targeted area newspapers, TV and radio ads, social media advertising, online banner ads, medical provider networks, and community action group outreach. Ultimately, our reach included 96% of Denver residents and 84% of the target audience nationwide.

Correcting Misleading Information 

During the settlement administration process, we identified a third-party claims processor that was communicating misleading information to class members. The courts voted to bar this communication, though some mailers had already gone out. It was up to us to act quickly to remedy any false information that may have otherwise harmed the class. We submitted a warning through our website that explained any mailings labeled “Final Notice” contained the incorrect deadline for claim filing. Thus, we let class members know they had an additional four months to file their claims than what was inaccurately stated in the third-parties communication.

Successful Case Resolution Brings Three Decades of Litigation to a Close

Our role as settlement administrator included many hurdles, but our adherence to industry best practices earned us accolades from the Honorable Judge John L. Kane, who said: “The Court-approved Notice Plan, which was successfully implemented by Kroll Business Servies, constituted the best notice practicable under the circumstances.” 

By October 2018, we distributed over $107 Million to 8,640 verified claimants. Two months later, we distributed another $97 million to a group of claimants who submitted supplemental documentation. A third settlement was soon to follow. After 26 years and with the help of an experienced administrator, the matter was put to rest.

Call Us for Environmental Class Action Administration

Kroll Class Actions offers free consultations with our senior leadership team who are happy to provide specific information on how our environmental class action administration services can respond to your unique set of requirements.

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