SIMI VALLEY — Contending that the nuclear and chemical legacy of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory harmed their property and health, 37 people have joined a lawsuit against Rocketdyne's parent company.
The additional plaintiffs brings to 78 the number of people who allege in a lawsuit that Rocketdyne's "ultra-hazardous activities" devalued property in the surrounding communities of Simi Valley, West Hills, Woodland Hills, the Santa Susana Knolls, Chatsworth and Box and Bell canyons.
In the amended suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Rocketdyne neighbors allege that their property was contaminated or subjected to chemical and radioactive exposure through the years.
The complaint centers on the 2,668-acre field lab--the site of nuclear research and chemical testing for decades--as well as the related Atomics International and Hughes Aircraft facilities in the western San Fernando Valley.
The amended lawsuit--filed Nov. 14--does not specify dollar damages sought. But it does request medical monitoring of the field lab's neighbors, who believe they are at increased risk of developing cancer or thyroid conditions.
"We are alleging that it is necessary to have some sort of fund to pay for adequate monitoring of the people we're representing to ensure they get appropriate medical attention early on, rather than when they're several years into a disease," explained Christopher P. Ridout, attorney for the plaintiffs.
Rocketdyne spokesman Dan Beck would not comment on the specifics of the case, citing a company policy that forbids discussion of ongoing litigation.
"Clearly, we still stand by our feeling that our actions did not pose a potential health risk to surrounding residents," Beck said.
The suit filed by Ridout and attorney Helen E. Zukin is one of at least four "toxic torts" pending against Rocketdyne and parent company Boeing North American claiming health or property damage from nuclear and chemical contamination at the field lab.
Plaintiffs in Ridout's suit believe their cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, bladder, skin and esophagus--plus incidents of irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, lupus and kidney problems--are the result of chemicals and radiation the field lab emitted into the air, soil and ground water.
Even those who have suffered no health problems "have been injured in that the value of their real property has been substantially reduced," the suit reads. "Furthermore, plaintiffs' real property is contaminated, is 'stigmatized' as contaminated property, and is in proximity of the contaminated facility."
Adding plaintiffs to the lawsuit is simply a way for attorneys to earn more fees, contends Rocketdyne's Beck.
"What this means is that the plaintiffs' lawyers get more people on board and do the same amount of work for a bigger contingency fee," he said.