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Chemical plant explosion 10 years ago leading to lawsuit expected to settle soon in court

“We all were sleep and were actually shaken out of our beds,” recalled Peete. “It woke you up.”

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — With this week’s explosion at a chemical plant in North Memphis, many neighbors are now thinking back to a plant fire 10 years ago.

A class-action lawsuit from a previous explosion has its final hearing set for this spring.   

On Tuesday, smoke at the chemical manufacturing plant PMC Biogenix was visible after a chemical exploded after a malfunction. One employee was injured. 

It’s bringing back memories for North Memphis resident Mia Peete.

“We all were sleep and were actually shaken out of our beds,” recalled Peete. “It woke you up.”

Resident Darnell Cox led the effort to file the property damage suit.  

“I woke up and grabbed my pistol because I thought someone was trying to break into the house,” shared Cox. “It shook the house so severely and it was so loud that really it scared me.”

Less than two miles away from PMC sits Penn A Kem, where two workers were severely burned in 2012 after a chemical exploded. Their burns covered over 70% of their bodies, according to an OSHA report. Those two people died due to their injuries.

Peete said as a result of that explosion her natural gas line had to be rerouted.

“We suffered property as well as personal issues,” she said. “(At) my home itself, MLGW came out and turned my gas off.”

Peete is part of the class action lawsuit which attorney Kevin Snider said is tentatively approved, with a final hearing before a judge on March 31.

“The total proceeds that Penn A Kem agreed to pay for anybody in the class is $65,000,” Snider explained.   

Snider said that will likely work out to no more than $3,000 dollars per claimant, not much after a ten-year delay.

Snider said the delay was due to factors such as a sick attorney, a co-counsel who’s now a congressman and COVID, which slowed down the courts. 

”Certainly it’s not the fault of anybody, certainly it’s not the fault of the judges or the courts or anything like that,” Snider said.

Witnesses like Peete claim medical injuries. She believes the explosion worsened her immune deficiency disease.

“As the days went on I started to hurt really bad in my legs which was different from the normal pain that I would have,” said the resident.  

Peete said at least five claimants from the original suit have now passed.

When asked if she’s thought about moving for safety reasons, Peete replied: “Of course I would love to move even though I’ve lived here all my life. Who wouldn’t want a better environment for theirs? I can’t afford to move that’s why I take such pride in keeping my home up.”