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TVA: 2019 lawsuit dismissed against TVA, Jacobs Engineering in wake of coal ash disaster

Officials said the 2019 lawsuit filed by Roane County against TVA and Jacobs Engineering that alleged both covered up the dangers of coal ash has been dismissed.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — *Editors Note: This story has been corrected to clarify the lawsuit in question was one filed by Roane County and the cities of Kingston and Harriman.*

A district judge in Knoxville dismissed a 2019 lawsuit filed by Roane County and two cities alleging the Tennessee Valley Authority and Jacobs Engineering were negligent and covered up dangers to communities in the wake of the 2008 Kingston coal ash disaster.

Roane County, Kingston and Harriman filed the lawsuit in 2019 in Roane County Circuit Court. The three alleged TVA and Jacobs Engineering Inc., hired by TVA to clean up the massive coal ash spill from the TVA Kingston steam plant, tried to hide and downplayed the dangers of coal ash from the community at large and from workers. Coal ash contains toxic substances including arsenic.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan granted TVA's and Jacob Engineering's motions to dismiss the lawsuit, ruling the claims were either barred by the statue of limitations or were insufficiently pleaded.

Theane Evangelis, one of Jacobs Engineering's lead attorneys, said they were pleased by the court's decision. 

"We believe that the court correctly determined that the claims were untimely and lacked merit," Evangelis said.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs, however, said the case isn't over. Attorney Jim Scott said, while the lawsuit may have been dismissed, it's possible to bring it back to court.

"The case was dismissed without any prejudice to allow the respective governments to refile and attend to house cleaning matters regarding the inclusion of more specific facts," James Scott said in an email to WBIR. "Our prior allegations are not disproven, and they will get more specific."

There have been other lawsuits in the wake of the coal ash disaster, including one still active filed in Federal court in 2013 that alleged Jacobs Engineering failed to protect its workers from risks that come from working with coal ash and lied about the possible health impacts. 

In November 2018, a federal jury in Knoxville found in favor of the workers, determining Jacobs may indeed bear liability as a result of the cleanup. TVA was not a party in that lawsuit. In 2019, a federal judge ruled Jacobs won't get a new trial. Lawyers are still preparing for a second phase to determine what if any damages Jacobs should have to pay the plaintiffs.