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236 Lockheed Plaintiffs Dismissed

September 02, 2000|JEAN GUCCIONE

A judge dismissed on Friday the claims of more than 200 residents who had alleged that toxic contamination from Lockheed Martin's Burbank operations made them ill and caused their property values to decrease.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Carl J. West further reduced the number of plaintiffs in a once-massive lawsuit which claims the aerospace giant caused cancer and other illnesses among Burbank residents by releasing toxic chemicals into the soil and ground water over decades of defense manufacturing.

Now, there are fewer than 200 plaintiffs left in the state lawsuit that once included 2,400 residents, said Thomas G. Foley, an attorney for the residents.

Most of the 236 plaintiffs were dismissed Friday because they failed to provide their lawyers information needed to support their legal claims, West said.

In addition to those plaintiffs, hundreds more have voluntarily withdrawn their claims against Lockheed, some under a provision of state law that allows them to back out without any legal consequences. Lockheed had warned plaintiffs that they could be held liable for the defense contractor's legal costs, if Lockheed won at trial.

Earlier this year, West threw out a test case involving 140 plaintiffs, saying they did not provide either scientific or medical evidence to show their illnesses were caused by toxic emissions from Lockheed's Burbank facilities.

The plaintiffs in the test case are appealing that decision.

The lawsuit was filed in 1996, after published reports that Lockheed paid $60 million to more than 1,200 Burbank residents in a confidential settlement of similar claims. Although Lockheed paid those residents, company officials have vowed to fight all further suits.

"They have had four years now to try to prove their claims and they have been unable to do it," said Gail E. Rymer, a Lockheed spokeswoman. "So it's time to close the books."

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