Conference Thursday expected to finish lawsuits over IP blast

Published 11:15 am Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A settlement conference is scheduled Thursday in a federal lawsuit brought by a man who was injured in an explosion at International Paper Co.’s mill at Redwood in 2008.

If a deal is reached, it would be a sixth settlement out of at least 10 lawsuits filed since the deadly blast on May 3, 2008.

Jeb D. Slade was a contract worker when a 12-story recovery boiler blew up as it was being restarted after annual maintenance at the plant. The blast injured 17 workers and killed 28-year-old Marcus Christopher Broome of Bolton.

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U.S. District Court records say a settlement conference in Slade’s lawsuit is scheduled for Thursday morning in federal court in Natchez.

The lawsuit claims International Paper recklessly ignited the boiler when it was filled with combustible gas.

Settlements were reached on five other suits involving seven others injured during the explosion. All were also contract employees.

Slade’s suit says he was on the sixth floor of the plant as part of his job with Cumming, Ga.-based RMR Mechanical when the blast happened. The lawsuit alleges he suffered a traumatic brain injury and other wounds in the blast and that he was disabled for two years. He also claims to have permanently lost some of his cognitive and reasoning power and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder with nightmares and flashbacks.

Slade’s attorney, Jim Nobles, declined comment. In a statement to the Associated Press, IP said Slade’s suit is the final legal action related to the explosion, but wouldn’t say how many lawsuits were filed related to the explosion or provide information about the outcomes.

“All issues related to this matter have been resolved with the exception of Slade,” spokesman Tom Ryan said. “We hope to put this matter behind us in the near future.”

IP told the AP in January 2010 that 10 suits had been filed. Slade’s lawsuit was filed in January 2011.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in November 2008 that the boiler didn’t have adequate steam. OSHA proposed a $77,000 fine for two alleged violations. The company contested that, and a formal settlement was reached for a $14,000 fine, according to OSHA records.