Thu., September 10, 2009 2:27pm (EDT)

Sugar Explosion Brings Legal Battle
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 5 years ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
Fourteen people died when the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth exploded in February of 2008.  (photo U.S. Chemical Safety Board)
Fourteen people died when the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth exploded in February of 2008. (photo U.S. Chemical Safety Board)
A state judge in Savannah heard arguments Thursday in the legal battle over evidence in a trial dealing with last year's fatal explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth.

The judge will decide what evidence will be heard in a trial expected to begin next year.

The trial could pit families of blast victims against the refinery's owners and operators. Investigators have cited the refinery for safety violations.

Mark Tate, the plaintiffs' attorney, said at issue is evidence showing which company was to blame for those violations.

"They want to say, 'Hey, we're all Imperial, none of you are allowed sue us because you all worked for Imperial,'" Tate said. "Our argument is, 'No no no. That plant is managed by and owned by two completely different corporations.'"

Imperial Sugar officials dispute safety violations. Company lawyers say the plaintiffs want evidence that's protected by attorney-client and accountant-client privilege.