Report: Missouri Gov. Sought To Short-Change Foreign Victims Of Lead Poisoning
Missouri State Gov. Mike Parson sought to intervene in a legal dispute between more than 3,000 young people from La Oroya, Peru, and the Doe Run Resources Corp., a lead company who is being sued for personal injuries caused by the company’s smelter in their town, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Gov. Parson sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on July 2, 2018 asking for “assistance” in moving the litigation from federal court in St. Louis to Peru. The State Department has taken no official action.
The company, owned by New York-based Renco Group, was founded by Ira L. Rennert, who not only contributed thousands to Parson’s 2020 election bid, but also argued that the case should be moved to Peru, where the pollution took place.
A St. Louis University study in 2005 found virtually all children under 6 in La Oroya had lead in their blood. By 2007, La Oroya was named one of the world’s most polluted places.
According to the World Health Organization, exposure to even small amounts of lead can lead to permanent brain damage in children.
“We intend to obtain justice for these children who were innocent victims of lead poisoning from the actions of Mr. Rennert and his companies,” said Jermoe Schlichter, of the law firm Schlichter Bogard and Denton, the lead attorney in one St. Louis case against Doe Run.
“Corporations in lawsuits like this will often move to dismiss the case filed in a United States court,” said Constance Wagner, a professor at St. Louis University’s Center for International and Comparative Law. “Plaintiffs would prefer United States courts because our judicial system is viewed as strong” than courts in developing countries.
“Corporate defendants perceive that foreign courts in poorer/developing countries are weaker and there is less chance of plaintiffs winning a large damages award,” she wrote in an email.
U.S> District Judge Catherine Perry is presiding over Schlichter’s case, who is representing 1,400 plaintiffs. The lawsuit names Renco and Doe Run as well as Rennert and executives, including Marvin Kaiser, Theodore Fox III, Albert Bruce Neil, and Jeffrey Zelms.