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Court Grants Preliminary Approval of Settlement of
Water Contamination Class Action

 

 Look for your notice and claim forms in the mail.


 Claims Accepted Beginning October 11, 2017 both online and by mail

 

CHARLESTON, WV, September 21, 2017- The United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia today issued an order preliminarily certifying a settlement class and approving a proposed class action settlement that may allow local residents and businesses to share in a settlement fund of up to $151,000,000 from two defendants relating to the 2014 Freedom Industries Chemical Spill.

 

On October 31, 2016 Federal Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr. announced a settlement in principle in the main lawsuit arising out of the Spill, known as Good v. American Water. On April 27, 2017, after numerous negotiating sessions and meetings with the Court, the parties filed a motion for preliminary approval of the settlement. On July 6, 2017, Judge Copenhaver entered an order supportive of the settlement, but asked the parties to consider some modifications and re-submit the proposed settlement. On August 25, 2017 the parties filed and asked the court to approve an amended settlement agreement. Today, Judge Copenhaver entered an order preliminarily approving the amended settlement. The Court also authorized a notice program and a claims process. The notice program will start on October 11, 2017. You should look for notices in the mail shortly after that date. When you receive your claim form, you may file a claim either online or by mail using the Claim ID number provided on the form.

 

Before the settlement is considered for final approval, class members will be given an opportunity to exclude themselves or “opt out” of the settlement, or to voice any objection at a final fairness hearing, which has been set by the Court for 10:00 a.m. on January 9, 2018.

 

You will be able to submit claims as soon as you receive the notice and claim forms by mail after October 11, 2017. The final deadline for filing claims is February 21, 2018. You will be able to file your claim on line or by mail. You will be able to download claim forms at www.wvwaterclaims.com. Or, you can call 1-855-829-8121 to get a claim form. Distribution of the settlement funds will not begin until the settlement is finally approved by the Court and after all claims are filed. The timing of the claims payment could be further extended by any appeals of that approval.

 

You can get more information at the settlement website: www.wvwaterclaims.com.

 

Summary of Proposed Settlement

 

The proposed settlement makes a fund available to some 225,000 individuals and thousands of area businesses to compensate for the loss of drinkable water, water-loss related expenses, lost hourly wages, lost profits and physical injuries.

 

Class  members eligible for this Settlement include the following residential households, businesses and workers (hourly wage earners):

 

Residential Households: Any resident of a residence provided tap water service from West Virginia American Water's Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant (“KVTP”) on January 9, 2014.

 

Businesses: A business that operated at a property location provided tap water service from West Virginia American Water's KVTP on January 9, 2014. This includes for-profit businesses, non-profit organizations and governmental entities.

 

Hourly Wage Earners: A person employed on January 9, 2014 at a Business that was Shut Down or Partially Shut Down as a result of the Spill and who can show lost hourly wages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple Claim Form Payouts Under Proposed Settlement

  Up to the following estimated amounts:

  • Residential Households - $550 + $180 per additional resident
  • Shutdown Business Claims - $1875 plus 4% of annual revenue up to $41,875
  • Lodging Business Claims - $5000 to $64,000 based on annual revenue.
  • Other Businesses - $1,875
  • Nonprofit Organizations - $1,875

 

Individual Review Form Process Under Proposed Settlement

  • Residential- Requires Receipts
  • Businesses- Requires Documentation
  • Hourly Wage Earners- Requires Documentation
  • Medical Claims- Some Claims May Require Medical Expert
  • Pregnancy- Claim Will Require Documentation

 

This federal settlement includes businesses and residents who previously opted out of the Good case or who filed similar class action or individual cases in state court.

 

For most class members, there are two payment options:

 

(1) Simple Claim Form Option providing set amount payments – without the need to submit documentation of actual losses - for Residential Households, Businesses or Governmental Entities,

 

  OR

 

Individual Review Option providing reimbursement of documented losses for Residential Households, Businesses, Governmental Entities, Wage Earners, and additional payment options for Medical Claimants and Pregnancy Claimants.

 

West Virginia American Water agreed to pay up to $126 million in settlement and not to seek rate recovery on approximately $4 million in costs associated with responding to the water crisis, and also agreed to waive any request for rate recovery related to payments made toward this settlement.

 

Of the $126 million, West Virginia American Water agreed $76 million will be made available for Simple Claim form claims and up to an additional $50 million may be available for class members who demonstrate claims under the Individual Review Option.

 

Co-Defendant Eastman Chemical Company agreed to pay up to $25 million to address physical injury claims and property damage arising from the contamination event to impacted residents and businesses.

 

The Defendants do not admit liability related to the Freedom Industries chemical spill by entering into this settlement. If the settlement becomes final, all class members who have not excluded themselves from the settlement will be releasing all claims against the Defendants, including any future personal injury claims, alleged to be related to the Freedom Chemical Spill.

 

The Court has preliminarily approved a counsel fee totaling 25% of all sums actually paid through the settlement, as well as the recovery of litigation costs. The total amount payable for claims is the amount remaining after payment of these attorneys’ fees, litigation costs and costs of administering the settlement.

 

Individual co-defendants Gary Southern and Dennis Farrell also separately settled claims made against them for $400,000, pending Court approval. Settlements with Southern and Farrell allowed over $3 million in insurance funds to be used to complete the environmental cleanup at Freedom Industries. Those funds helped to make sure that the Freedom Industries site was clean without taxpayer funding and that the site never again threatens the region’s water supply.