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Mar 27, 2000

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WTI suspends counterclaims until class action suit is settled

Journal Staff Writer

LISBON - Waste Technologies Industries has called off for now its counter-lawsuit against opponents so it can focus on winning the original lawsuit filed against the company.

WTI issued a news release Friday afternoon announcing it had filed a motion in county Common Pleas Court suspending counterclaims against the 32 people who own property near the company's hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool.

"Without waiving our right to reinstate our claims, nor concede any point, we are suspending the case we filed three years ago," said Fred Sigg, WTI vice president and general manager.

The news release said the idea behind suspending the counterclaim for the time being is to bring to a speedier resolution the class action lawsuit first filed against WTI in 1997 by the 32 property owners.

The property owners claim WTI has hurt property values by harming the water, air and land in the tri-state area.

WTI responded by filing a countersuit seeking $1 million in damages from each of the 32 property owners, accusing them of engaging in a pattern of activity designed to defame the company and interfere with its ability to do business as a legally licensed and operating entity.

After protracted legals, resulting mostly from the actions of WTI opponents in fighting the countersuit, the lawsuit was finally scheduled for trial Sept. 8.

To speed things up, WTI decided to call a halt to its countersuit until the original lawsuit is resolved. Once that is done, WTI may reinstate its countersuit, depending on the outcome.

"Under Ohio law, we have up to one year to reinstate our claims," Sigg said. "Whether we do so or not is up to the plaintiffs."

Sigg called the move a "gesture of good faith" designed to encourage an out-of-court settlement. He said WTI offered to sit down last year to discuss a possible settlement, but "they turned down the company's generous offer."

"It is unfortunate they declined the opportunity. Now that some of the plaintiffs are keeping company again with Greenpeace and Citizen Action, it is clear they want to keep the needlessly expensive lawsuit afloat in an effort to further their political agenda, which is to embarrass Vice President Al Gore," Sigg said.

The move comes less than two months after Judge Douglas Jenkins dismissed a portion of WTI's countersuit but let stand claims for damages resulting from abuse of process, defamation and for filing a frivolous lawsuit. Jenkins reserved making a judgment on the defamation claim until after April 4

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