Residents of Richmond, Ind., have filed a class action lawsuit against the business involved in a plastics-related fire that led to a five-day evacuation earlier this month.
The suit against Cornerstone Trading Group LLC and owner Seth Smith was filed April 20 in Wayne County Superior Court in Richmond.
Local residents Tushawn Craig and Marquetta Stokes are named as plaintiffs in the case, along with local business Limitless Pallets LLC. They are seeking unspecified damages.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants' conduct "resulted in a widespread fire which released noxious fumes and hazardous materials including asbestos into the air and ground water of the surrounding area."
The suit also claims that as a result of the fire, "numerous potential plaintiffs experienced adverse health events including … inhalation of noxious gases and smoke, breathing complications, headaches, dizziness, skin rashes and chest pain resulting in the need for medical care." It also states that plaintiffs "are experiencing or have experienced a rapid decline in the marketability of their property" since the fire.
The suit was filed by law firms in Richmond and Carmel, Ind. Ronald Moore, a Richmond attorney representing Smith, could not be reached for comment.
The fire started April 11 at a business alternately identified as My-Way Trading Inc. or Cornerstone Trading in warehouses that contained what city officials described as large amounts of chipped, shredded and bulk recycled plastic. The fire eventually spread to six buildings. All six buildings and their contents were completely consumed by the fire.
The cause of the fire has not been identified. According to state fire officials, an investigation will take several weeks to complete.
According to the suit, Smith was issued an unsafe building order by the city in July 2019. The notice referenced the "significant fire hazard" that existed at the facility and adjacent properties.
"Defendants had actual knowledge of these unsafe conditions for several years prior … but failed to take any affirmative steps to remedy the unsafe ultra-hazardous conditions that existed," the lawsuit said.
The fire was fully extinguished on April 18, two days after more than 2,000 residents were allowed to return to their homes. On April 19, the Environmental Protection Agency stopped air testing after not detecting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or particulate matter emissions for three days.