Savannah Sugar Refinery Disaster
Claims Against the U.S.; Commercial Losses & Toxic Torts


By: Guerry R. Thornton, Jr., Member, Georgia Bar (Atlanta)

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     The modern justice system has spawned tort laws that can be activated to achieve fair compensation for victims of a large industrial disaster.

     Since 1980, over 280 incidents have involved dust explosions, ranging from fertilizer to sugar mills. Concentrated dust particles can explode when exposed to static electricity or sparks from tools. This may have been the cause of the refinery fire in Savannah on Feb. 7th.

     In Nov. 2006, the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) listed sugar plants as hazardous and called for rules to prevent disasters. At the time of the Savannah fire, the CSB had not received a reply from OSHA, the Bush agency with control over worker safety. See, CSB “Combustible Dust Investigation” (CSB.gov).

     Now, litigation will decide who is liable. In similar cases, awards have been made under workers’ compensation and larger recoveries have come from third parties, such as insurance companies, inspectors, engineers, product makers, and others, See, Dupont Plaza Fire Disaster Settlement.

     Beyond claims related to the operation of the Savannah plant, experts should investigate why the Bush administration failed to mandate safety rules that could have guarded against sugar dust explosions, like onsite inspectors, safety and dust removal systems. Government negligence has resulted in liability under the Federal Tort Claims Act, like the 1971 Thiokol explosion in Woodbine, GA. Claims against multiple entities could increase compensation for those injured in Savannah.

     In addition to injury and death claims, parties may be held liable for environmental contamination and losses to businesses. Compensation has been paid to communities in other disasters, like the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. The Ft. Wentworth community may endure economic losses which could give rise to claims related to toxins, commercial damages and reduced property values.

     As various agencies strive to assist victims in recovering from the Savannah disaster, advisors should be cognizant of the many liability avenues that are available. Our justice system provides many options which will help those affected secure fair and just compensation.

     [Notice: The statements herein are general in nature; it is not intended to provide advice in the context of any attorney-client relationship; any victim should seek qualified advice from a member of the legal profession; this article should not be relied upon for legal advice]

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For More Information Contact:

Guerry R. Thornton, Jr., Attorney at Law, Tel: 404 933 0298 Fax: 404 237 4148

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