HILLSBORO, Mo. – A pro se housewife who won a unanimous decision against a team of nuclear industry attorneys in the Missouri Supreme Court finally settled her lawsuit against the plant’s owner. Jefferson County Circuit Judge Gary Kramer ruled in Clarissa Eaton’s favor, forcing Westinghouse to adhere to a $45,000 settlement.
Westinghouse owns a plant 2 miles from Eaton’s home that had been used for uranium fuel fabrication during the Cold War. Westinghouse notified the Eatons in 2002 about groundwater contamination caused by the plant, court records state.
Eaton wanted Westinghouse to buy her house, estimated to be worth $220,000, but said Westinghouse offered just $26,000 to settle for property depreciation only. Westinghouse sued in Jefferson County in 2004 to enforce the settlement and Judge Kramer ruled in its favor. Eaton appealed, representing herself, and won at the 8th Circuit and again in the Missouri Supreme Court in 2007.
The Supreme Court’s ruling negated the $26,000 settlement. The case was sent back to Judge Kramer’s court in Jefferson County.
Impressed by Eaton’s supreme court win, attorney Steve Hamburg took on Eaton’s case for free and helped negotiate the $45,000 settlement, for property depreciation. Eaton said she retains the right to sue if a family member becomes sick with a contamination-related illness.
“We’re putting it to bed,” said Eaton, who is 17 weeks pregnant with her fourth child. “This has been going on since 2002 and it has been taxing on my family. We don’t have the money or the resources like the companies do, but we felt like we did everything we could do to defend our land.”