BW0011 MAR 26,2000 14:41 PACIFIC 17:41 EASTERN
( BW)(DC-COHEN-MILSTEIN) Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, P.L.L.C.
Announces the Following...Local Citizens Victorious Against Waste
Technologies Industries -- WTI -- in Notorious SLAPP Suit
News Editors/Legal & Environmental Writers
WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 26, 2000--Citizens in Ohio and
West Virginia who for three years have been victims of a vicious and
unfounded Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) filed
by the owners and operators of a hazardous waste incinerator in East
Liverpool, Ohio have learned that the suit has been "suspended." The
incinerator is located 1100 feet from an elementary school.
Filed in early 1997 against citizens who had spoken out and
demonstrated against the environmental dangers of the location of the
incinerator, the SLAPP by WTI sought over a million dollars against
each of approximately thirty citizens for alleged abuse of process,
tortuous interference with business relations, frivolous litigation
conduct, and vexatious litigation. The SLAPP by WTI singled out the
most vocal opponents, Teresa Swearingen and Alonzo Spencer, with
numerous additional charges of defamation. WTI now states that on
Friday March 24, 2000 it filed papers dismissing its SLAPP, which had
been pending in the Columbiana County Court of Common Pleas in eastern
Ohio. The following facts are relevant to the timing of WTI's
-- On Monday March 27, 2000 WTI's response was due to a motion filed
in court by attorneys for the citizens that requested the court
to order WTI to finally turn over documents and provide corporate
testimony relating to the SLAPP; the citizens had been requesting
such discovery for years without any cooperation from WTI. In
their March 10, 2000 motion attorneys for citizens had asked the
court to consider dismissing WTI's SLAPP for its "contumacious"
refusal to provide documents and testimony to back up its SLAPP
-- WTI had been ordered by the court to respond by April 4, 2000 to
another motion by the attorneys for citizens in which they had
requested the court to enter summary judgment against WTI on the
-- The court had recently dismissed as legally groundless WTI's
vexatious litigation claim against the citizens. The court had
also significantly narrowed WTI's frivolous litigation claim.
-- WTI was required to respond in mid-April to discovery requests by
attorneys for the citizens in which WTI would have had to either
acknowledge the baseless nature of its allegations or produce
evidence to back up them up.
Attorney Michael D. Hausfeld, Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll,
PLLC, (Washington, D.C.) who represents Mrs. Swearingen and Mr
Spencer, responded to WTI's claim that it had dropped the SLAPP as a
good faith gesture: "It is too late to call WTI's acts `good faith'
after three years of attempting to intimidate and harass these
citizens for the sole reason that they spoke out against the
environmental threat to their community. They were innocent victims of
WTI's legal actions. Companies such as WTI need to put their extensive
resources into protecting the community from environmental harm, not
suing citizens who speak the truth." Mr. Hausfeld further stated, "The
SLAPP by WTI was part of a pattern by environmental offenders to chill
free speech and the right to petition government. Attorney Matthew F.
Pawa of Cohen, Milstein also represents Mrs. Swearingen and Mr.
The location of the WTI incinerator has been the subject of
intense local, regional and national media attention. The incinerator
is located only 1100 feet from a public elementary school and 400 feet
from the nearest homes. The location was legally impermissible under
Ohio law at the time the incinerator was constructed but was
grandfathered in due to the issuance of the permit to construct prior
to enactment of the law prohibiting such siting.
SLAPPs have become an increasingly common plague on state and
federal courts around the country as polluters and other companies
turn to the courts to impose expensive litigation costs on their local
opponents. SLAPPs are suits without substantial merit that typically
allege defamation, business interference, and abuse of process and
similar claims against adversaries. SLAPPs are almost never victorious
in the traditional sense of winning a lawsuit but can frequently
obtain their main objective of silencing opposition to their business
plans. Several states, including Massachusetts and California, have
enacted anti-SLAPP statutes.
CONTACT: Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, PLLC
Michael D. Hausfeld or Matthew F. Pawa, 202/408-4600
Matthew F. Pawa 202/363-4329, cell: 202/257-4809
KEYWORD: OHIO DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA WEST VIRGINIA MASSACHUSETTS
INDUSTRY KEYWORD: LEGAL/LAW ENVIRONMENTAL