Trial in first Rouse suit planned to begin May 10

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 20, 2004

[2/20/04]The first of several damage suits against Rouse Polymerics, the site of a 2002 explosion that left five employees dead, has been set for trial.

Jurors will be selected to hear the case starting May 10 before Warren County Circuit Court Judge Frank Vollor. The suit was filed on behalf of representatives of Roy Deaton of Vicksburg, who was 50 when he died after the explosion.

A separate suit was filed for each of the other employees who died: Theodore “Teddy” Smith of Vicksburg, who was 40; Tywane Croskey of Port Gibson, 24; Alfred Harrison of Tallulah, 42; and John Davenport, 27.

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The suit on behalf of family members of Harrison and Smith remains pending in Warren County Circuit Court before judges Isadore Patrick and Johnny Price, respectively. As the judge of Warren County Court and Youth Court, Price may handle some cases assigned from the county’s circuit court.

The suits on behalf of Croskey and Harrison, originally in Hinds County, have been transferred to the federal court district headquartered in Jackson. They were originally filed in the Jefferson and Hinds circuit courts.

Five other plaintiffs, including three of the seven other company employees who were burned by the fire, have also joined in the suit on Harrison’s behalf. Those employees are Patrick Rader, Walter Doss Jr. and Leander Greer.

Also transferred to Jackson federal court are two other suits against Rouse.

One is on behalf of the surviving employee who spent the longest time hospitalized, George Stewart, 35, of Fayette. He was released from The Burn Center at Delta Regional Medical Center in Greenville about two months after he was burned. The suit filed on his behalf was also originally in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

The other is on behalf of Rouse’s neighbor, U.S. Rubber Reclaiming. One wall of the space in which the explosion occurred was shared by the two companies’ operations, and that wall was damaged in the explosion and fire. The suit was originally in Warren County Circuit Court.

The plant is on U.S. 61 South in Vicksburg. The explosion and fire there was Vicksburg’s worst industrial accident. The five deaths occurred during the two weeks following the explosion.

Rouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August 2003. Meanwhile, the plant continued to operate on a reduced scale as recently as a few months ago.

Company president Michael Rouse was not available.

Using scraps of rubber including old tires, the company produces finely ground rubber dust for manufacturing new tires and other products.