KANSAS CITY, Mo. - For the first time in our two year Bannister Federal Complex investigation, attorneys will be interviewing sick workers from both sides of the facility to determine whether to file a class action law suit.
The attorneys will be specifically looking for cases of mesothelioma and cancer, but could expand to other illnesses an investigator said.
"I guess I'm guardedly optimistic because there seems to be some hope and then, two steps forward and three steps back," said former worker Barbara Rice. "It's a Missouri thing, show me."
An NBC Action News investigation has identified more than 450 sick or dead workers at the complex and hundreds of toxins including beryllium, asbestos, and plutonium.
Organizers say if they gather enough information, it is likely they would target defendants other than the federal government.
"The thing that they would do, they're talking about a third party lawsuit," former worker Maurice Copeland said. "They're going to name the manufacturers of the toxins and they're going to name certain people at Honeywell."
"They really, really have to show me the third party lawsuits that they've won," Copeland said. "We're going back in the past, looking at the dead. We want survivors and family members."
$33 million to some Kansas City workers, but others qualify for nothing
A government run health screening and compensation program for workers on the Honeywell plant side of the building has paid out more than $33 million, but sick workers on the other side of the building, where Rice worked, that suffer from similar illnesses are not covered.
"There are a number of cases, like people who worked in GSA who were exposed, they could take it to the judicial," said Cold War Soldier nuclear physicist Wayne Knox about the entrance of attorneys. "There are a number of other people who have tracked contamination home to family members and they have a legitimate case to sue."
"I represent law firms that specialize in this type of litigation," said Terry Coffelt of Emporia. "I have been a investigator on hundreds of cases involving exposure in the work place."
Coffelt will begin interviewing sick workers and their families Friday.
"They're trying to get a strong treasure chest of evidence," Copeland said. "I think they're going to try to leverage all of that."
Coffelt, Knox, and other agencies will consult sick worker and family members of the dead at a meeting September 16th from 2:00 to 6:00 pm at the Southeast Community Center, 4201 E. 63rd St.
Knox's Cold War Soldiers is a consulting firm that assists workers from the nuclear bomb part making side of the complex with filing compensation claims, but his agency doesn't take cases to court.
When Cold War Solders is successful, the firm receives 2% to 10% of the total award in fees, which isn't a large enough payment to interest most law firms Knox said.
"By and large, lawyers are not interested in the peanut we obtain," said Knox.
That is why he and others are enthusiastic to see interest from a law firm.
Hundreds of toxins
The Department of Labor acknowledges it is likely workers have become ill at the facility from exposure to one or more of 898 toxins it lists as "toxic substances verified as having been onsite and used at site "Kansas City Plant" at some time."
Workers on the Honeywell plant side of the facility make bomb parts under contract with the Department of Energy.
There is no similar compensation program for workers on the other side of the building which has housed USDA, FAA, IRS, Defense Finance and Accounting, and other agencies.
Click here to see the 16 page list of sick or dead workers: http://media2.nbcactionnews.com/pdf/investigators/bannisteremployees_20110413.pdf
Click here to see entire list of toxins: www.nbcactionnews.com/dpp/news/local_news/investigations/plutonium-and-more-than-100-other-new-toxins-identified-at-bannister-federal-complex-
To register your illness with NBC Action News, click here: http://contests.nbcactionnews.com/engine/YourSubmission.aspx?contestid=19527
To see our entire investigation, click here: http://www.nbcactionnews.com/generic/news/local_news/investigations/Topic-Investigators-Bannister