More than 120 families with lawsuits against developers, the City of Fullerton and other defendants over the McColl toxic waste dump have won settlement awards to date ranging from $25,400 to $129,700, according to documents filed Wednesday in Orange County Superior Court.
The awards, drawn up by retired Superior Court Judge Joseph A. Wapner of “People’s Court” fame, were approved Wednesday by Orange County Superior Court Judge Jerrold S. Oliver.
Families living near the McColl dump, which was a dumping ground for aviation fuel wastes during World War II, alleged that noxious fumes emanating from the site had caused them health problems. They also contended that city officials and developers should have told them about the existence of the dump before they bought their homes.
The so-called apportionment for all 123 McColl plaintiffs, who are represented by Encino attorney Jeffrey A. Matz, divides proportionate shares of the $8.75 million in settlements reached so far in the complex case.
Settlement awards for 18 other families who filed lawsuits over McColl have not been released.
Frances Swart, a resident in the Islands development southwest of the dump, whose family has been awarded $43,120 to date, said late Wednesday that no amount of compensation would be enough if anyone in her family should ever become seriously ill because of exposure to the dump’s noxious fumes.
Too Many Houses for Sale
Swart, 51, a computer operator for her husband’s business, said the couple haven’t really thought about what they would do with any cash settlement. Moving away from the McColl dump is out of the question, she said, because “there are already seven houses with for-sale signs between our house and the corner and none of them is selling.”
Share amounts were based upon the number of household residents, the number of years that plaintiffs lived near the dump and which of three developments they lived in surrounding the abandoned dump in northwest Fullerton, according to court documents.
The amounts do not reflect the attorney’s one-third fee share, nor the legal costs of preparing the complicated case against more than 20 defendants.
Four families in the Fullerton Crest development, immediately south of the dump, have been given the largest single shares so far--$129,697.90--of all 123 plaintiffs represented by Matz.
Settlements for the Fullerton Crest families--which averaged about $117,000--are virtually final because all defendants in their case settled as of last month.
But the two main defendants in the Islands and Meadows developments, the William Lyon Co. and the Chevron Land & Development Co., have yet to settle in the case, which has been delayed for trial pending appellate court rulings on various issues.
By comparison with Fullerton Crest families, the settlement awards for the Islands and Meadows plaintiffs were considerably lower.
For the 80 families living in the Meadows development who filed suit, settlements ranged from a low of $25,439 for Steven and Marti-Jo Seymore to a high of $56,309 for Antonius and Mimi Lioe. Neither family could be reached for comment late Wednesday on the settlement awards.
In the Meadows cases, both the builder, the William Lyon Co., and the developer, the Chevron firm, remain as defendants. All 80 families living in the development northeast of the McColl dump are represented by Matz.
For the 20 families represented by Matz from the exclusive Islands development, settlements ranged from a low of $26,950 for William and Pamela Dana to the $43,120 awarded Frances Swart and her husband, Chester. The Danas could not be reached for comment.
In the Islands cases, the single remaining defendant is the William Lyon Co., whose attorneys, Matz says, have continued settlement talks but without results.
Most of the families contacted about the apportionment of awards were reluctant to speak Wednesday.
When asked about the settlements, for example, John Kaminski, one of the four Fullerton Crest families given the largest share, said tersely, “I have no comment.”
Ingeborg Campbell, a Fullerton Crest resident whose home is on the street immediately south of the dump and whose award tallied up to $117,907, also had little to say. “I just don’t really want to be in the papers,” she explained.
Most apparently had not even thought about what they would do with the money, which was supposed to recompense them for lost property values blamed on nearness to the dump.
A $26.5-million Superfund cleanup, set to start last May, was aborted when a Superior Court judge in Kern County ordered the state Department of Health Services to do a full environmental impact report on the potential effects of the project. State officials have just begun the environmental study, which is expected to take 12 to 18 months.
Rights May Be Lost
The great majority of residents living near the McColl dump did not file suit and may have lost their right to do so because of the length of time that has passed.
While some of them have complained bitterly about the few who stand to reap financial rewards, other residents, such as Connie Burdick, think it’s just fine.
“Good for them, I’m happy for them,” said Burdick, whose home backs up to the dump site.
However, Fullerton Crest resident Jack Swandburg said he thinks the money “would have been better spent cleaning this place up.”