Dozens of lawsuits linked to chemical spill move forward

Oct 7, 2016

Lawsuits claiming personal injury and loss of income consolidated by federal judge

Lawsuits linked to a massive January chemical spill that left nine West Virginia counties without safe drinking water for days have been consolidated by a federal judge, according to the West Virginia Record. The judge combined the plaintiffs’ 62 separate cases in order to move them back to state court. The order is a step to determining whether the lawsuits will continue in state or federal court.

Bodily harm among many complaints

The chemical spill happened along the Elk River on January 9 when approximately 10,000 gallons of MCHM leaked into the drinking water of more than 300,000 residents. The spill occurred at Freedom Industries’ Etowah River Terminal and affected residents who relied on the West Virginia American Water Company for their tap water.

The lawsuits make a number of claims, including bodily injury, loss of income and business revenue, requests of medical monitoring, annoyance, inconvenience, and emotional distress. Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy soon after the spill and when it became clear the company would likely not have the financial resources to cover the claims, it was removed as a defendant from many of the lawsuits. The lawsuits vary in the defendants named, including Freedom Industries, the West Virginia American Water Company, and Eastman Chemical, the company that produced the MCHM chemical.

Hundreds of known hospital cases

As reported in the Charleston Gazette, hundreds of emergency room patients who sought medical care during the chemical spill had symptoms consistent with MCHM exposure. Symptoms included diarrhea, vomiting, rash, nausea, and abdominal pain. The Director of the Kanahwa-Charleston Health Department, Rahul Gupta, estimated that 100,000 people may have experienced symptoms related to the chemical exposure but most chose not to seek medical treatment.

The most common route for exposure to MCHM was by skin contact to tap water, such as by washing dishes, bathing or showering. Controversially, the 1-part-per-million screening level that was deemed safe by state and federal authorities did not take into consideration exposure via inhalation or skin contact. Critics contend that authorities tried to downplay the risk of exposure both during and after the accident.

Industrial accidents

As the above case shows, industrial accidents, such as chemical spills, are often highly complex and usually involve multiple parties. Such accidents can have devastating consequences for people affected and in many cases injuries may not become apparent until months or even years after the initial accident occurred.

Bailey, Javins & Carter, L.C. is currently representing hundreds of clients in litigation related to the West Virginia chemical spill. Anybody who has been the victim of an industrial or any related type of accident should contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss their case. A lawyer who is experienced in these complex accident cases can use his experience to best guide his client through the legal options available and will fight to make sure the client receives the compensation he deserves.