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The Town

March 21, 2013

Tonawanda Coke mounts defense


Tonawanda News — The questioning of Foersch is in line with the defense team’s overall strategy. The attorneys are claiming that DEC and EPA officials implicitly and explicitly approved the plant’s conditions, which are “out in the open” and easy to see. 

The testimony came after Judge William Skretny ruled on the acquittal motions submitted by the defense team Monday — a standard request by defense lawyers at trial, asking the judge to toss out indictments because prosecutors failed to meet their burden of proof before a jury has a chance to decide guilt or innocence. Skretny denied the motions and all of the 19 counts still stand. 

Last week, the latest civil case among dozens already filed against the plant, became one step closer to starting when the Appellate Division of Supreme Court of New York in Rochester filed a decision allowing the owner and CEO of the company, J.D. Crane, to be named personally in the complaint. 

”Plaintiffs commenced this action seeking ... damages for personal injuries and property damage that resulted from exposure to various toxic emissions allegedly released by defendant Tonawanda Coke Corporation,” the court wrote.

Roughly 200 named plaintiffs in the case, Jennifer Abbott et. al vs. Tonawanda Coke, alleged that J.D. Crane is personally liable because he “participated in and approved of decisions that resulted in the toxic emissions from the Tonawanda Coke plant.”

Following the filing of the case, Hodgson Ross defense lawyers made a motion to dismiss the complaint against Crane. Erie County Court previously dismissed the motion, and the appellate division then affirmed the decision March 15.

”Although a ‘corporate officer is not held liable for the negligence of the corporation merely because of his official relationship,” the individual can be held liable if it is established ‘that the officer was a participant in the wrongful conduct,” the court wrote. 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150

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