A federal class action lawsuit filed by several neighbors of Barrie Park against Commonwealth Edison and Northern Illinois Gas has been settled in principle following eight months of negotiations. Under the terms of that agreement, seven parties to the suit and those in two sub classes will share in a $1.9 million settlement fund.
The primary plaintiffs will also receive a number of other considerations under terms of the settlement, including payment of legal bills, expenses for needed environmental remediation of individual properties, and property value protection.
In addition, Com Ed and Nicor will pay for a groundwater assessment report, a comprehensive remedial investigation report, agrees to remove utility conduits connected to numerous homes, and pay up to $10,000 per property for removal of contaminated soil.
The settlement money will be paid into a “redress fund” from which payments will be made to members of the primary class action litigants and to two settlement subclasses comprised of owners of 31 properties adjacent to the park and to individuals who lived for periods of at least six months in any of those residences.
The settlement states that the defendants are “liable for the alleged nuisance, property damages, and personal injuries allegedly caused by the contamination related to a manufactured gas plant that formerly existed at the location now known as Barrie Park, Illinois.” However, under the settlement agreement, Commonwealth Edison and Northern Illinois Gas “deny the allegations, deny any wrongdoing, and deny any liability.
In December, 2001 Barrie Park neighbors John and Karri Spillane filed a Class Action lawsuit against Commonwealth Edison and Nicor Gas, the Park District of Oak Park, and the Village of Oak Park. In March 2003 the Spillane’s sued in federal court under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
In August lawyers for Barrie neighbors placed an ad in local newspapers announcing the proposed settlement, and seeking applications from individuals eligible to be considered as part of the settlement class. Those applications must be submitted by Feb. 7, 2007. Eligible individuals who wish to opt out of the settlement and file suit separately were required to do so by Oct. 10, 2006.
The settlement was finalized in late July, but was on hold until a corresponding lawsuit in state Chancery court was dismissed. That suit was disposed of on Nov. 9. Final action awaits a decision in federal court in December.
While the Park District of Oak Park has settled all its legal issues regarding the Barrie Park site contamination and remediation, Park Board President David Kindler said he felt for the people who were still mounting court action. Many people, he said, have struggled for years with the consequences of that contamination, an experience with which he said he empathized after years of litigation by the park district. While a monetary settlement would likely help, Kindler said it couldn’t make up for what they’d endured.
“It’s good to see that, for folks who’ve been through what they’ve been through, there’s an end in sight,” he said.