May 1, 2013
This is the first in a series of posts about the Hanford litigation. I am a plaintiff in that litigation. In fact, I have been a plaintiff now for over twenty years in one of the slowest moving legal actions on record. I have just been chosen as a bellwether (representative) plaintiff in the next phase of the litigation. Let me state for the record that, although I am trained as an attorney, my role in the Hanford litigation is solely that of a private individual, a personal injury plaintiff.
More than 5000 “Downwinders” originally joined the litigation against the contractors that ran the Hanford nuclear weapons facility. Now, over two decades later, around 1000 personal injury plaintiffs remain. I am one of the 1000. As plaintiffs, we all suffer from thyroid disease, thyroid cancer, or other debilitating illness which we and our experts believe more likely than not to have been caused by radioiodine and other radiation released within a multi-state area downwind and into the Columbia River by the Hanford plutonium production facility over its decades of operation. Some had to wait too long, dying without resolution of their claims.
Lawyers defending the contractors that ran Hanford have billed the government for more than $50 million over the course of the Hanford litigation. Taxpayer dollars have flowed freely to fund the defense of the contractors under an indemnity agreement with the government required by the contractors before they would operate the Hanford facility. This immunity became part of the Price Anderson Act which was enacted into law in 1957.
Ironically, Price Anderson was enacted to “provide prompt and orderly compensation of members of the public who incur damages from a nuclear or radiological incident no matter who might be liable.”
I say ironically because, as an injured person and plaintiff in this litigation, what I see Price Anderson doing is funding expensive lawyers to defend the Hanford contractors against injured Downwinders like me. And, adding insult to injury, these defense attorneys are being funded with my tax dollars.
Think about that for a moment.