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Settlement reached in federal lawsuit over mill explosion

REDWOOD — A settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit brought by a man who was injured in a deadly explosion at an International Paper Co. mill in Mississippi in 2008.

Jeb D. Slade settled his lawsuit after a hearing yesterday in U.S. District Court in Natchez. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. The lawsuit was filed in January 2011.

International Paper spokesman Tom Ryan said in an email today that the company is pleased to resolve the lawsuit, but he wouldn’t comment on the terms.

Slade’s attorney, Jim Nobles, said today that the terms are confidential by order of the court.

Slade was a contract worker when a 12-story recovery boiler blew up as it was being restarted after annual maintenance at the Redwood plant on May 3, 2008. The blast killed 28-year-old Marcus Christopher Broome of Bolton and injured nearly two-dozen others, including Slade.

Slade was on the sixth floor of the plant as part of his job with Cumming, Ga.-based RMR Mechanical Inc. when the blast happened.

The lawsuit alleges Slade suffered a traumatic brain injury and other wounds in the blast and that he was totally disabled for two years. He also claims to have permanently lost some of his cognitive and reasoning power and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder with nightmares and flashbacks.

There were at least 11 lawsuits filed after the blast, and a number of them ended in settlements, but Ryan has declined to say exactly how many. Ryan said earlier this week that “all issues related to this matter have been resolved with the exception of Slade” and the company was looking forward to putting the matter behind it.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in November 2008 that the boiler didn’t have adequate steam when it was restarted. OSHA proposed a $77,000 fine for two alleged violations. The company contested that and a formal settlement was reached for a $14,000 fine, according to OSHA records.

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