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Alcoa Miner Cancer Lawsuit: Indiana Jury Sides With Aluminum Company

AP  |  Posted: 05/ 2/2012 12:29 pm

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — A jury has sided with aluminum producer Alcoa in a $12 million lawsuit filed by a former miner who blamed an aggressive cancer on hazardous substances the company dumped at a southwestern Indiana mine.

The Vanderburgh County jury reached the verdict Tuesday after a more than two-week trial on Bil Musgrave's claims that years of working, hunting and fishing at the Squaw Creek Mine site near Boonville exposed him to chemicals that caused his rare form of liver cancer.

Alcoa's lawyers argued the lawsuit was filed after a statute of limitations on legal actions involving recreational use of mine land and that Musgrave's doctors couldn't confirm a link between the chemicals and his cancer, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.

Alcoa was a joint owner of the 8,000-acre mine property, which it operated to supply coal to power its aluminum smelting facility along the Ohio River near Newburgh.

Musgrave worked at the mine from 1977 until it closed in the early 1990s, but his attorneys said he also spent hundreds of hours a year there, fishing, hunting, hiking and target shooting beginning when he was a child.

Musgrave, who underwent a liver transplant in 2001, sought $12 million for medical costs, loss of income, pain and suffering.

"The reality is Bil doesn't have the prospect of a long life span. He is 56 today, and he is not likely to make it to 70 or 80," his attorney, Peter Racher, told the jury.

Musgrave is representing a similar lawsuit in a Warrick County court on behalf of more than 40 people, some of whom were witnesses during the trial.

Attorneys for the company maintained the lawsuit was motivated by Musgrave's involvement with the United Mine Workers local upset about Alcoa's changing to a nonunion mine.

Alcoa attorney Tom Birsic argued many of the witnesses who testified had union ties that influenced their testimony.

"What happens when good people become invested in lawsuits is their memories start to conform to facts that fit their case," he said. "That's what I am suggesting happened here."

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com

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Filed by Jessica Leader  |