By DREW PARKER
The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register
MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. — A Marshall County judge helped turn a multi-million-dollar court settlement into an educational fund to benefit two Mountain State universities.
When Circuit Judge David Hummel found out that more than $6 million remained in a court settlement account from a class-action lawsuit in Marshall County Circuit Court, court staff decided to make use of the money to help programs at Marshall University and West Virginia University.
Hummel, along with Wheeling attorney Dean Hartley, claims administrator Ted Gompers and Charleston attorney E. William Harvit recently traveled to both WVU and Marshall to present each school with a check for almost $3.1 million.
Hummel ordered the funds to be split equally between the WVU Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute and the Robert C. Byrd Center for Rural Health at Marshall University in November.
According to Hummel, the order was a result of a class-action lawsuit against Chemtall Inc., which obtained medical monitoring for coal and wastewater treatment workers who had been exposed to a neurotoxin in their line of work.
He added medical monitoring in the case ruling entitled affected West Virginia and Pennsylvania employees of Chemtall and other chemical providers to free doctor’s examinations to determine if their exposure resulted in any adverse effects.
“I made certain the money stayed in the state of West Virginia, but certainly the neuroscience research will help West Virginia and people outside of the state,” Hummel said. “The case itself was about health issues and the neuroscience dovetailed right into that. It just seemed like a logical place for it to go. At Marshall, they’re doing amazing things for rural West Virginians with very little money.”
At Marshall University, funds will be used to improve initiatives at the Robert C. Byrd Center for Rural Health, which focuses on isolation as a health care barrier in remote areas.
At WVU, the donation will support research into Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, addiction and other neuroscience issues.
George Spirou, Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute director at WVU, said the institution recently merged with WVU and the donation will help secure more faculty and add to its 55 labs.
“I anticipate the funds will be used to support the expansion of research and to add new faculty but also to target some of our existing research areas,” Spirou said. “Addiction and stroke stick out as key health issues in the state.”
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