Cardwell of Etowah County, Alabama. Judge Cardwell's ruling now clears the way for the matter to return to the Alabama Supreme Court.
Solutia filed a motion to recuse Judge R. Joel Laird Jr., the presiding judge in the Abernathy case, in March 2002 on the grounds that the judge's actions, including extensive, inappropriate contact with the media concerning the merits of the case, created an appearance of bias and lack of impartiality. Because Judge Laird took no action on the matter, the company filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the Alabama Supreme Court in April 2002 asking for the high court's intervention in the matter.
In response to the company's petition, the Alabama Supreme Court on May 23, 2002 directed Judge Laird to issue a decision on the recusal motion before it would take action in the matter. Rather than rule on this matter, Judge Laird referred the matter to Judge Cardwell, who conducted a hearing on August 8, 2002, and then issued a ruling on November 8, 2002. On August 19, 2002, the Alabama Supreme Court granted Solutia's request for a stay in the Abernathy proceedings until further order by the high court.
Solutia awaits a final ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court on the recusal matter. The company will continue to seek a fair resolution to all matters in the Abernathy case.
Regardless of the current litigation, the company remains committed to an effective, safe and permanent cleanup of PCBs in Anniston. To date the company has spent nearly $50 million on remediation-related activities in the Anniston area.
On October 23, 2002, a comprehensive Consent Decree between Solutia and the U.S. government was filed in federal court in Birmingham, Alabama. The Consent Decree, if approved by the federal judge, will pave the way for an effective, permanent cleanup in Anniston. The Consent Decree includes an expedited cleanup of residential properties and will build on the extensive sampling and analysis completed over the past several years by Solutia, EPA and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. This work includes sampling of more than 1,000 properties, cleanup of residential properties needing immediate action (except those prevented by plaintiffs' counsel), investigation of more than 8,000 acres of land and adjacent waterways, and cleanup of 300 acres of land and a mile of drainage ditches.