The class action lawsuit against Madison-Kipp Corporation (MKC) was approved in U.S. District Court on Oct. 28 in a hearing that lasted a few minutes. The judge, lawyers, and two neighbors who represented the class said they were very pleased with the settlement, in which each class member will receive an average of $80,000. The judge, who said she received a letter from the DNR commending the settlement, asked no questions at all. The mood was pleasant and congratulatory. No doubt, champagne bottles were popped on all sides after this short hearing.
Should we all breathe easy now that the truth has been told and justice served? Far from it. In the settlement document, Kipp denies all lawsuit allegations—in other words, claims it didn’t cause the pollution or any related environmental or health problems. Ironically, Kipp also agrees to do what the DNR and EPA ask “to address environmental conditions at and migrating from the facility” (wait, didn’t Kipp deny causing the pollution?) but only “while fully and expressly reserving any and all rights to challenge, appeal, object to, or litigate any decision by WDNR or USEPA…”
In sum, Kipp denies causing pollution while admitting it, and agrees to do what DNR and EPA asks—well, unless they object to it. Apparently, our DNR thinks this dishonest doublespeak is A-OK.
Perhaps most troubling, the settlement money comes with a steep moral price for class lawsuit members who didn’t opt out: silence about Kipp’s pollution, silence about what they believe, silence about the truth. It’s hush money. To get their money, class members had to agree that “they have not been diagnosed with, are not aware of, and do not have any symptoms that they suspect could be associated with any sickness, disease, or physical injury which may have been caused to them by the action or inaction” of Kipp. The settlement also includes a stipulation that class members “will not make any statements or representations relating to the claims and allegations asserted in the lawsuit, or direct any other Person to make any statements or representations relating to the claims and allegations asserted in the lawsuit, that disparage or otherwise impair the reputation, goodwill, or commercial interest of any other party hereto or their respective counsel.”
What wheeling, dealing, and political pressure went on behind the scenes among Kipp, DNR, and lawyers on both sides to come up with this duplicitous agreement? We’ll never know.
Do all the class members really not believe they have any health problems caused by Kipp’s pollution? Or not even suspect they have health problems that might be associated with it? Of course not. Several people in the class lawsuit have serious health problems, including cancer, that they believe are associated with Kipp’s pollution. Some suspect birth defects in the neighborhood over the years were connected to Kipp’s pollution. Others have mentioned neighbors who already died, they think, from Kipp’s pollution.
So why did they sign this agreement? Some don’t seem to understand what they agreed to. Regardless, they want this stressful Kipp fiasco to be over so they can move on with their lives. They all need the money. It’s very understandable. They certainly deserve money for their years of exposures to Kipp’s toxic pollution—though no amount of money can really compensate for this.
Remarkably, just one neighbor—one who needs the money just as much as others, if not more—had the courage and integrity to opt-out of the class lawsuit, foregoing the settlement money entirely, in order to continue speaking the truth about Kipp’s pollution and health problems without fear of retribution from Kipp. This person put truth and honesty before money.
Despite the lawsuit, Kipp’s huge plume of highly toxic contaminants continues to spread beneath the neighborhood towards the aquifer and the lakes. The factory’s air stacks continue to spew pollution into the neighborhood and beyond. All citizens will be paying for Kipp’s pollution indefinitely—with our dollars, our health, and the health of wildlife and the environment. Our children and grandchildren will be paying for it. We need as many courageous people as possible to continue speaking out publicly about this.
So, THANK YOU to the incredible, courageous person who opted out of the Kipp lawsuit!