Lockheed Martin Faces New Toxic Contamination Lawsuit

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lawyers representing homeowners in toxic contamination lawsuits against Lockheed Martin Corp. have filed a new case adding 550 clients.

The third mass lawsuit filed since November brings to about 1,500 the number of residents suing the giant defense contractor over alleged health problems and declining property values that they attribute to decades of toxic releases from the now-defunct "Skunk Works," which built advanced military aircraft.

More lawsuits are expected to follow the latest case, filed Tuesday in Burbank Superior Court.

"As word gets out in the community, we keep getting more and more calls," said Peter J. Bezek of the Santa Barbara law firm of Foley, Bezek & Komoroske, one of four firms representing the residents.

The lawsuits allege that for years Lockheed failed to inform people living near the former B-1 bomber construction plant that it was discharging chromium 6, a known carcinogen, and other chemicals into the air and ground.

The new lawsuits follow on the heels of an earlier, class-action case filed in U.S. District Court in August. That action sought property and medical damages for a separate group of residents.

Unlike the class-action case, Bezek said each plaintiff in the case filed Tuesday in Burbank will be individually named and the attorneys will try to prove in court that each has suffered specific damages.

Both cases were prompted by Lockheed's out-of-court agreement to pay $60 million to about 1,300 residents who claimed health and property damage. The parties involved had agreed to keep that settlement confidential, but terms of the deal leaked, sparking a public furor and the ensuing lawsuits.

Lockheed spokeswoman Maureen Curow said the company does not comment on ongoing litigation. Lockheed Martin has repeatedly said its B-1 plant, which closed in 1990, posed no health risks.

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