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Residents Lose Battle with Gelman

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Residents lose battle with Gelman

■ Homeowners with Gelman-polluted water owe more to company for legal fees than damages paid.



Twelve homeowners with polluted groundwater in the Westover Subdivision adjacent to Gelman Sciences have lost another court battle with the Scio township firm.

The Michigan Court of Appeals agreed this week with a Washtenaw County judge who ruled that, while the homeowners deserve some financial damages for the inconvenience of having their drinking water wells ruined by Gelman’s pollution, they owe Gelman more than that in legal fees.

The 12 homeowners turned down a $202,000 mediation settlement ' and took the case to a Washtenaw 1 Circuit Court jury in 1990.

The jury awarded them only $119,700, but after paying their attorney fees, they’ll end up owing Gelman more than they collected.

The jury gave them some money for the loss of enjoyment of their property, because they had to drink bottled water and some drove to a hotel to bathe until they hooked up to city water.

But the jury awarded no damages for loss of property value, and the homeowners were not allowed to ask the jury to award damages for their fear of future health effects.

Because the homeowners pressed on with the case and got less from the jury than they had been offered as a settlement, visiting Judge Thomas Roumel granted Gelman $114,791 in attorney and expert witness fees in 1991, to be paid by the homeowners.

David Fink, attorney for Gelman Sciences, was pleased Friday with the appellate decision. “The costs exceeded the judgment, that’s for sure. Now my client will have to decide whether to try to collect.”

Fink and Gelman Sciences spokesman Robert Buker disagree about whether most of the costs were borne by the company’s insurance carrier, Fireman’s Fund, or the company.

Either way, Buker said the company will try to collect from the homeowners “because we’ve given up a lot of time from the business.”