CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Over the past decade, Freedom Industries, its officers and associated companies have faced several lawsuits in Kanawha and Putnam counties, most of which were dismissed for various reasons.
Freedom Industries now faces about 40 lawsuits after a chemical leaked from its storage tank into the Elk River and fouled the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginians last month. The company filed to reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy a week after the spill.
On Dec. 31, 2013, four companies merged under the umbrella of Freedom Industries: Freedom Industries Inc., Etowah River Terminal LLC, Poca Blending LLC and Crete Technologies LLC.
Freedom markets and distributes chemicals that are mixed by Poca Blending in Nitro. Etowah River Terminal is the storage facility on the Elk that leaked the chemical. It has about a dozen tanks, each of which can hold tens of thousands of gallons of chemicals. It was formerly a Pennzoil facility.
Of the four companies merged in December, Freedom was the oldest. Carl L. Kennedy II, a longtime Charleston businessman, founded it Feb. 10, 1992. Its listed address at that time was 8 Capitol St.
In 2004, Kennedy and Kenneth C. Fox, directors of Eight Capitol Street, defaulted on $8,630 in workers compensation payments, according to documents in Kanawha Circuit Court.
The lawsuit to collect the money was later dropped in 2005 after Kennedy and Fox agreed to repay the money.
Kennedy is a longtime business associate of Dennis "Denny" Farrell, listed as president of Freedom Industries on the company's website. Kennedy is still listed as "incorporator" on Freedom on the West Virginia secretary of state's website.
In 2004, a lawsuit was filed against both Kennedy and Farrell by D-G Airways in Kanawha Circuit Court.
The lawsuit claimed that Kennedy and Farrell had hired the company to work on their Piper airplane, but never paid the company $22,470 for its work. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2008.
Farrell, as the owner of Sun Room Creations Inc., was sued over not paying workers compensation fees. That lawsuit filed in October 2004 in Kanawha Circuit Court, claimed he owed $35,713.
The lawsuit was dropped after Farrell paid the amount, according to court documents.
Kennedy was sued again in 2004, by his accountant, Samuel Carnes, who claimed Kennedy never filed his tax returns and other related documents.
That lawsuit was dismissed when Kennedy filed for bankruptcy, according to documents in the case.