Originally created 11/23/04

Settlement talks will be held in plant deaths



The families of three men killed in a BP Amoco Polymers plant explosion and a company executive with the ability to write a settlement check are to gather in federal court next month.

In U.S. District Court on Monday, attorneys for both sides met with U.S. District Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. for a status conference on the civil lawsuits filed by the families of 25-year-old Heinrich Kohl, 35-year-old John Rowland and 42-year-old George Sanders.

The men died in an explosion at the Tobacco Road plant March 13, 2001. They were preparing to clean a waste collection drum when the blast occurred.

Both sides indicated Monday they are open to discussing a settlement and tentatively agreed to meet with Judge Bowen the week of Dec. 13. In the meantime, both sides will continue to prepare for trial. A trial date has not been set.

Judge Bowen, in connection with the defense's pretrial motion to present certain evidence about the drum, asked whether the tanks were cleaned regularly and how long they had been at the plant. The company attorneys said the tanks were cleaned monthly.

"The jury will want to know what made this time different from all those others," Judge Bowen said.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs are awaiting a ruling by Judge Bowen on evidence they will want to present if there is a trial - the accident investigative reports.

Judge Bowen said he thought it would be good for those who filed the suits to attend the settlement conference next month unless they give their attorneys authority to decide what to accept.

The date is only tentative at this point because the defense attorneys want to ensure a corporate executive is also able to attend.

They assured the judge that the person would be someone with the power to write checks on the corporate account.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.