State Prevails on Poultry Third-Party Defendant Motion

A federal judge has denied a corporate poultry attempt to point the finger of pollution at Oklahoma residents and business owners.

Federal Magistrate Sam Joyner today ruled that the poultry companies’ third-party defendants should be severed from the state’s poultry pollution case. He also stayed any action the companies pursue against these defendants until after the completion of the state’s case against the companies.

“From the very beginning, these companies have spent all of their energy on legal and public relations tricks,” Edmondson said. “Once again, their scheme to delay, confuse and complicate this case has failed.”

The state filed a federal lawsuit against several out-of-state poultry companies in June 2005, accusing the companies of releasing hazardous substances and other pollutants into the Illinois River watershed and Lake Tenkiller. In an effort to shift the blame to others in the watershed, many of the poultry companies then filed claims naming 160 Oklahoma residents, businesses and cities as third-party defendants in the suit. These same companies also filed a single claim naming 150 unidentified John and Jane Does.

Edmondson in April asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma to strike or, in the alternative, sever and stay corporate poultry’s claims against these unsuspecting Oklahomans.

“The amount of phosphorus these corporate poultry operations dump on the ground every year in the Illinois River watershed has been estimated as equal to the waste of 10.7 million people,” Edmondson said. “That’s more than the populations of Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas combined.”

According to the attorney general, this entire ruse was political hostage taking.

“The corporate polluters did not name a single Arkansas entity, despite the fact that about half of the Illinois River watershed is in Arkansas,” Edmondson said. “This alone is an obvious signal as to the intent of this plan. This was nothing more than political pressure and it failed.”

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