Kurt W. Maier
In 1991, Kurt Maier got a referral from another attorney for a case. A woman believed her husband had died of cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange, the defoliation chemical often used in Vietnam that is largely believed to be a carcinogen. The client’s husband grew up on a farm that was adjacent to railroad tracks. The woman recalled that a railroad derailment in the 1960s dumped a chemical all over the farm, and her husband had been exposed to it. She thought the chemical was Agent Orange.
Kurt began looking for records that might prove her claim. The railroad management told him their records didn’t date back that far – and besides that, there was no chemical spill, they said. But Kurt found a newspaper article with an account of the spill. The railroad officials then admitted the spill happened, but refused to say that the spill was any sort of hazardous chemical. Kurt interviewed hundreds of people who lived in the area near the farm, and witness accounts indicated railroad workers poured the contents of barrels from the spill down a sinkhole on the farm.
A witness brought photos taken on the day of the spill that showed the client standing directly in the spilled chemicals – barefoot and without a shirt. Three trips to New Orleans produced a videotaped deposition from an official at the Port of New Orleans who confirmed that the material on the train was indeed Agent Orange, and headed for Vietnam, when the train derailed near the farm.
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