Thursday, January 06, 2000

Attorney gets time to probe abestos claims

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — An attorney working to guarantee free medical exams for hundreds of people exposed to asbestos last year has been granted more time to build his case.

        At a hearing Wednesday in U.S. District Court here, Covington attorney Charles Schaffner said he needed more time to investigate claims made by a man who alleged Covington Independent Schools and the company responsible for wiring work at Latonia Elementary School in 1998 knew that asbestos was being released into the air but didn't stop the job.

Delay until Feb. 1
        U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman gave Mr. Schaffner and co-counsel Jennifer Westermeyer and Tom Beiting until Feb. 1 to submit all pertinent documents.

        It could take another month before the judge then decides on motions for summary judgment, to dismiss the case or to grant it class-action certification.

        Defendants include Covington Independent Schools, Nor-Com Inc. of Hebron, Rainbow Home Environmental Services Inc. of Anderson Township, Gryphon Technologies of Crescent Springs and Steven Titmas of Akron, Ohio-based Rims.

        Mr. Schaffner has said Mr. Titmas' claims are the ones that need to be investigated. There has been some contention as to which company he was working for when he told contractors that work to provide Internet access at Latonia would release asbestos.

        Court documents indicate he was working for Rims. But Mr. Titmas has told plaintiffs' attorneys that he was working for Nor-Com when asbestos, a cancer-causing retardant, was loosened at Latonia. Contractors were installing wiring.

School closed 3 weeks
        Latonia Elementary School was closed for three weeks, while students attended class at Northern Kentucky University's Covington campus.

        Mr. Schaffner, Mr. Beiting and Ms. Westermeyer have said the students' civil rights were violated because they had no choice but to attend a school where asbestos was in the air.

        School district attorneys have countered that Covington Independent Schools should have immunity from the asbestos litigation and that the Kentucky Board of Claims, which is part of the Kentucky Public Protection and Regulation Cabinet, is the proper venue to settle the case.

        The board of claims has told plaintiffs' attorneys that it would not handle such a matter.


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