The target of a class-action lawsuit stemming from a massive April fire at a Richmond, Ind., plastics recycling and resale plant is blaming the blaze on the city, which owns part of the property.
Seth Smith, who owned My-Way Trading Inc. — the business at the plant that burned — contends the city should be held responsible. On July 3, he filed a motion to dismiss the suit against him and his renamed business, Cornerstone Trading Group LLC of Richmond. Smith renamed My-Way after the company declared bankruptcy.
A hearing on his motion has been scheduled for Oct. 11 in Wayne County Superior Court in Richmond.
Smith is being sued by two Richmond residents, Tushawn Craig and Marquetta Stokes, and a merchandise liquidation business, Limitless Pallets LLC. The April 11 fire forced the days-long evacuation of more than a thousand residents within a half-mile radius.
According to the lawsuit, the fire "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, many potential plaintiffs experienced "inhalation of noxious gases and smoke, breathing complications, headaches, dizziness, skin rashes and chest pain resulting in the need for medical care."
The plaintiffs are also claiming that property values in the area have been affected.
Local and state fire officials are still investigating the cause of the blaze.
Smith had received warnings from the city, dating back years, that the huge accumulation of plastics and debris at the three-parcel site made it a fire hazard and blocked fire department access. In 2019, the city's Unsafe Building Commission ordered the company to clean up the property, demolish the buildings or leave.
After the fire, Fire Chief Tim Brown said at a news conference that Smith kept bringing in more material "and just kind of lost control of it." Mayor David Snow said at the April 14 press conference that the monumental task of cleaning up the site would have cost roughly "tens of millions of dollars."
The city had purchased two of the three parcels of the almost 14-acre site to gain access to begin the cleanup. Smith's motion to dismiss says that because the city was aware of the hazard on its own property, it is responsible.
In response to Cornerstone's counter-complaint, filed July 3, the court issued summonses for Snow and A.J. Sickmann, Richmond city attorney, to appear at the October hearing on the motion to dismiss.