Class action status granted to Elkhart County neighborhood - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Class action status granted to Elkhart County neighborhood lawsuit

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An Elkhart County neighborhood is breathing a sigh of relief.

After years of crying out, they'll have their time in court.

It all started in 2007 when a massive fire at VIM Recycling on Old US 33 broke out. An employee was killed in that fire.

Soon after, residents started complaining of health problems, saying dust and other emissions from the plant were making them sick.

A lawsuit was filed in 2009 and now there's been a major development.

A federal district judge of South Bend granted class action status to the lawsuit against the VIM facility that is now owed by Soil Solutions.

Residents are recalling memories from the past ten years.

"Once they came it was nothing but trouble. People got killed there," says Laura Dozcy who lives near the recycling plant.

Dozcy has lived in her neighborhood for 14 years.

She says she signed a petition to keep VIM Recycling, now Soil Solutions, from moving in the first place.

She's also signed a petition to get the wood recycling company to leave.

"When there was the big fire, you can see things, big chucks of things flying across the sky," says Dozcy.

It didn't stop there. Dozcy says people all over the place have been dealing with upper respiratory problems. She says dust and debris has ruined things like vehicles and outdoor furniture.

Laura, "I used to have a pool, and above ground pool and once VIM moved in, it stayed green. It didn't matter what you did to it because of whatever filtered from the air. You couldn't keep it clean," says Dozcy.

A lawsuit was filed in 2009, but residents started speaking up years before that.

They told the company what they'd been dealing with during this meeting back in 2007 about a month after this massive fire at the facility.

"This smell caused my daughter outside waiting for the school bus to come into house and throw up in the bathroom," said a resident at a 2007 meeting.

Just this week, a federal judge approved class-action status for the lawsuit which includes 1,700 neighbors near the plant.

The attorney working the case on their behalf says they deserve relief.

"They suffer from really extreme noxious odors and dust and other problems that make it very unhealthy for them to live in their homes and very uncomfortable to live in their homes," says attorney Kim Ferraro.

Dozcy, just hearing of the class-action status says it's news she's been waiting a long time to hear.

"That's awesome. I didn't know that we had gotten it. I know that I've signed a lot of petitions and we've tried to do things about it. Sounds like somebody's finally going in the right direction. It's a shame it's taken so long," she says.

The recycling plant, which grinds scrap wood into animal bedding and mulch, couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

From here, all 1,700 members of the class will be notified.

Six of them will represent the entire class in the courtroom.

Dozcy says it's her dream to see the plant close and the area cleaned up.

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