Endicott-IBM Lawsuit Moving Forward Slowly

By Matt Porter

November 16, 2012 Updated Nov 16, 2012 at 11:28 PM EDT

Endicott, NY (WBNG Binghamton) In five pre-trial decisions, a Broome County Supreme Court Judge has likely set the stage for a number of appeals before the trial even begins.

Judge Ferris D. Lebous ruled twice in favor of the plaintiffs, a group of village residents suing IBM Corporation over contamination at its former campus in Endicott, and three times in favor of IBM.

Resident and business owner Mark Bacon is part of a class action lawsuit.

He claims pollution contaminated his investment, a two-story brownstone that stands alone in a parking lot across from the former campus that used to be a full block of businesses and residences.

"If they had came out and told me there was a problem," said Bacon, "I wouldn't have put the money into this building, this building was fallen down."

Bacon bought and renovated the building in 2000 costing him just over $130,000.

Two years later, tests showed contaminants in the ground as well as vapor contamination in the air.

"All of a sudden, IBM's problem is my problem," he said, "They hide behind their lawyers and this will drag on forever. And I live with the problem they created."

The judge's rulings for the plaintiffs were:

Lebous denied IBM's motion preventing jurors from hearing allegations of negligence for groundwater pollution that made its way into the air.

He also ruled that trespass allegations must be considered as part of the case.

For IBM, Lebous ruled:

The plaintiffs did not show enough evidence to bring damages as a result of continued medical monitoring.

The plaintiffs did not have enough "medical proof" to back up their argument linking other contaminants besides TCE to cancers in residents.

The judge also ruled that only property owners of affected properties can bring a suit against the company.

With the mixed decision, both sides are expected to appeal.

And that's going to extend this case longer than it already is.

Frustrating residents in the village including Rick White, a former IBM employee, who's a member of the Western Broome Environmental Stakeholder's Coalition (WBESC).

"We cannot get to a resolution that will make this village well," said White, "It's as simple as that, make the village well."

The coalition has stayed out of the lawsuit, but advocates on behalf of the village.

White hopes a future study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety (NIOSH) of more than 25,000 IBM employees' medical records will prove the plaintiff's case.

Action News reached out to attorneys for both sides and IBM. None were available for comment.