Lawyers for former employees at the 2008 Kingston coal-ash disaster-site cleanup and Texas-based Jacobs Engineering have been granted a two-month extension in their mediation efforts. The mediation seeks to resolve a multi-million-dollar federal lawsuit that has dragged on for years.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan suggested mediation to more quickly and efficiently determine damages owed by the company to some 70 former cleanup workers and their families.
And in Knoxville, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton agreed earlier this month to extend the mediation deadline by two months, to August 16.
Mediation was due to begin Thursday, but court records state that has been pushed back.
The former employees – or, in some cases, their families – allege Jacobs Engineering failed to warn of dangers and adequately protect them as they cleaned up the massive liquid coal-ash spill resulting from a broken dike at the Tennessee Valley Authority power plant in Kingston.
The suit further alleges dried coal ash contains toxic substances – about which they should have been properly trained, and against which they ought to have been adequately protected.
As a result of Jacobs’ failure to preserve the workers’ well-being, as well as prevent their exposure to toxins, some say they’ve contracted cancer and other life-threatening sicknesses. And families contend other former workers have died as a direct result of illnesses contracted by exposure to the toxins.
Last November, in a trial that spanned three weeks, a federal jury in Knoxville decided there was evidence to believe Jacobs failed to uphold their duty to look out for the workers’ welfare.
That verdict led to a second phase to determine whether any workers suffered harm as a result, and to determine damages.
TVA is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.