Erin Brockovich in Florida

by Walter Olson on October 22, 2009

An editorial in the Palm Beach Post advises reader caution about the glamorous tort-chaser’s efforts to drum up clients for Weitz & Luxenberg and Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley based on allegations of a cancer cluster with a claimed link to radioactive drinking water:

The lawyers discussed water samples from 10 homes of cancer patients that showed at least trace amounts of radium, a naturally occurring metal. Those studies, however, echoed Florida Department of Environmental Protection results from 50 randomly selected homes. …

…one resident concluded on a Web site after the meeting: “Last night, we were validated.” Amid the personal appeals came the business pitch. Attorney Jack Scarola explained the contingency contract, which means that clients would pay nothing, even if they lost. He urged residents to take their time reading the contract because if “you inform yourselves well, you will find it’s in your best interest to sign with us.”

{ 5 comments }

1 E-Bell 10.22.09 at 9:54 am

I’ve been following this story with some interest. To date, no one has been able to pinpoint the cause of the cancers (or even that it is a “cluster,”) but that isn’t stopping the lawyers from apparently targeting a nice deep pocket in Pratt & Whitney.

2 Richard Nieporent 10.23.09 at 9:13 am

In actually, a truly random distribution guarantees that you will have clusters of events that occur. A perfectly flat distribution is not random. In other words, the existence of a cancer cluster implies nothing.

3 CarLit Guy 10.23.09 at 10:19 am

There you bringing math into the conversation, Richard, AND pointing out the flaw in the statistical model. Surely, someone has legislated against allowing such glimpses of reality to intrude into the jury box…

As a one time Florida resident, familiar with the area, I postulate that the source of the radiation is most likely naturally occuring – the state is full of it. Absent some showing that these cancers are related to one another, and associated with this type and method of exposure – this is a non-case in my belief. Even with that showing, unless the waste from the local plant can be specifically identified as the cause (mass spec readings, isotopic comparisons, some “hard science”) I’m still not buying it.

(Disclosure) I briefly (Summer Job) did analysis of water at a company sampling water sources, runoff, and discharge for a large number of local municipalities and businesses in Florida – though I was in one of the rooms doing the titrations, fecal coliform studies, and the like. I’ve seen the gas chromatigraph and other high tech equipment in use for specialized testing purposes, but beyond a basic theoretical understanding of how they work, do not have a strong understanding of their limits. Accordingly, some of the above evidence I’m looking for might be beyond the mechanical limits of common equipment used for testing, though I doubt it.

4 rxc 10.23.09 at 8:15 pm

Ahhh, but maybe the water supplier should have done something to “protect the children” from this deadly menace. At the least, they should have provided warnings so that the children could have avoided it.

Protecting them from the other 14000 radioactive hits per second that all people experience, due to cosmic radation and other natural internal sources, is another matter, though…

5 Bill Alexander 10.24.09 at 1:31 am

I understand you can avoid the other radioactive hits with a tinfoil hat.

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