Court records indicate that two families who are members of the class involved in the case have objected to the amount of money sought by the lawyers. On family, in a letter to Bedell, said they were "genuinely grateful to the attorneys who have given their time, energy and travel" for the case, but that the amount sought was "absurd."
In their petition seeking Bedell's approval for the fees and costs, the lawyers noted that the $30 million in fees is roughly 19 percent to 22 percent of the total value of the settlement, a share "consistent" with other class-action cases.
"If attorneys are to continue to undertake environmental litigation on behalf of citizens, plaintiffs' attorneys must have the prospect of reasonable compensation," the lawyers wrote.
If Bedell approves the fee request, it would leave about $26 million for property remediation.
At trial, an expert for the residents had put the necessary remediation costs at $62 million, and the jury awarded property owners $55.5 million in cleanup costs.
So far, plaintiffs' lawyers and their proposed settlement administrator, Edgar Gentle of the firm Gentle, Turner and Sexton, have declined to publicly explain exactly how the remediation plan proposed at trial would be changed to cut its costs in half.
Gentle did say in a phone interview that the plan put forth by the plaintiffs at trial was a "Cadillac" cleanup. "Obviously, you can't do the same remediation," Gentle said. "It's not going to be a Cadillac because it's a settlement."
In court documents, the plaintiffs' attorneys said that the smaller amount for the cleanup "reflects the patent risks of litigation for the class.
"Specifically, in the event plaintiffs lost at retrial on the statute of limitations, the class would have recovered nothing," the lawyers wrote. "Alternatively, in the event plaintiffs were successful in whole or in part at the retrial, the class was surely facing another lengthy appellate battle and possible retrial (with a worst-case scenario of each class member having to testify in a mini-trial of his or her own).
"Either way, property remediation would not be happening for years, leaving class members continuing to be exposed to heavy metals and at increased risk of developing latent disease associated with that exposure," the lawyers wrote.
The plaintiffs' lawyers said that, once formally appointed by Bedell, Gentle as settlement administrator would "make some determination, with community input, related to the scope of a remediation consistent with the compromise settlement itself.
"The bottom line, however, is that once the settlement is approved, property remediation will actually happen and will begin sooner rather than later," the lawyers wrote.
Also, Bedell has not yet formally ruled on a motion by DuPont to create an independent settlement executive committee that could limit the actions and expenses by Gentle in running the medical monitoring program. The plaintiffs had proposed for Gentle to be part of the committee that would run the program.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.