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HomeNewsLocal newsRum Fungus Settlement Reached 

Rum Fungus Settlement Reached 

Barrels of rum aging in the Cruzan warehouse represent future revenues for the territory.
Barrels of rum age in the Cruzan warehouse on St. Croix. (File photo)

Crucians affected by so-called rum fungus should watch their mailboxes in coming weeks as attorneys have reached a settlement in the case.

Lawyers representing people harmed by the fungus, allegedly emanating from warehouses where rum was aged, and attorneys for two of the island’s large rum manufacturers agreed on Dec. 29 to a cash settlement, said Warren Burns, an attorney for St. Croix residents.

The settlement has Diageo USVI selling warehouses where the rum was aged. Those funds will be part of the compensation for people whose property was damaged by Baudoinia compniacensis — also known as rum fungus. The black, sooty fungus grows when ethanol, released during the aging process, meets moisture, sometimes up to a mile away from the actual aging barrel.

Complaints about the mold started in 2013. Lawsuits and Senate hearings on Diageo and fellow rum maker Cruzan VIRIL’s involvement started a year later.

“They dispute all the facts that we’ve alleged, as you’d expect them to,” Burns said. “When all is said and done, the settlement will approach, hopefully, nearly $10 million.”

How many people could see a slice of that money depends on how many make claims, he said. People who owned, or rented property in Williams Delight, Estate Cane, Enfield Green, or Estate Diamond as far back as April 29, 2007, could be eligible.

“In this case, we’re fortunate that we have a pretty robust database of property owners, which we will be using to do direct mail notice. Every property owner will get a piece of mail that explains their rights and their ability to make a claim in the settlement or opt-out of the settlement,” he said.

Notices to potential claimants would likely be mailed next week, Burns said.

He declined to approximate what each claimant could be paid but said it would likely far exceed the rate of many other class action suits.

A final hearing on the settlement was scheduled for March 30, when a judge will rule whether the settlement is fair.

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