The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has handed the plaintiffs in lawsuits over the alleged mishandling of the cleanup following the Kingston coal ash spill that occurred in December of 2008 a big victory.
Jacobs Engineering is the contractor TVA brought in to clean up the spill that dumped over 5 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash sludge into the Emory and Clinch Rivers as well as over 300 acres of land in Roane County. Cleanup workers, and in some cases, their surviving families, have sued both TVA and Jacobs, alleging they were never given proper protective equipment despite the toxic nature of coal ash, and that as a result, many became sick, and others died. The appeals court rejected arguments by Jacobs’ lawyers that since the federal government has a certain level of immunity so would TVA and its contractors, a concept known as derivative immunity. That means that in the event that the plaintiffs win their lawsuit, the company would be liable for damages.
In 2018, a federal jury ruled that the workers’ illnesses may have been caused by the coal ash exposure in phase one of a multiyear trial, the second phase of which will focus on what caused the worker’s injuries and illnesses, and how much compensation they should receive.