Great Falls plastics company strikes deal to halt lawsuit

CHESTER -- One of the two remaining lawsuits filed in connection with a massive Great Falls mill fire in 2006 has been dismissed, according to court records.

The class action lawsuit against CBCL, a plastics business destroyed in the fire, ended after an agreement between CBCL and those suing the company, according to a letter received by the Chester County clerk of court's office this week.

The letter was signed by Robert Dodson, the Columbia attorney who told The Herald in 2006 that his clients were pursuing the case against CBCL because "our primary effort is going to be directed at somebody that does have some insurance and means available to hopefully reimburse these families."

Dodson declined to discuss the case Wednesday.

A class action lawsuit is filed on behalf of a named individual and any others affected in a similar situation.

Dodson's clients originally sued the owners of the former J.P. Stevens Mill No. 3 and the owner of the plastic recycling operation in the plant, claiming smoke from a nearly weeklong fire there in June 2006 led to various health problems.

A judge dismissed the suit against the mill's owners in November 2006, saying lawyers failed to show how or why the couple was responsible for the fire. But Dodson said then that his clients were moving forward with the case against CBCL.

During the fire, mandatory evacuations were ordered for about 1,300 of the town's 2,200 residents because of dangerous smoke, officials said.

State investigators were unable to determine a cause for the fire.

One lawsuit left

Another group of residents made claims similar to those in Dodson's case in a class action suit filed against both CBCL and Chester County.

In the suit against the county, residents claimed Chester County officials were negligent to allow the plastics grinding and recycling business to reopen after it was shut down for alleged safety code violations in 2004.

The lawsuit targeting the county and the company is the only one pending.

Ping Lee, CBCL's owner, has been unfairly blamed for the fire, said Lee's attorney, Hemphill Pride of Columbia.

"They needed somebody, and they picked him," Pride said. "Obviously, it was not his building that started it."

Lee now wants "to get the other one (lawsuit) out of the way so he can go on with his business," Pride said.

Randy Hood, a Rock Hill attorney representing clients in the remaining lawsuit, could not be reached for comment.