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Parties Seek Preliminary Approval For Settlement of
Freedom Industries MCHM Class Action
Claims Accepted Only If Court Grants Preliminary Approval
CHARLESTON,WV, April 27, 2017- The parties in the MCHM Spill class action filed a motion today seeking to pave the way for local residents and businesses to share in a settlement fund of up to $151,000,000 from two defendants.
On October 31, 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. Since that announcement, all sides have been working under the supervision of the court in drafting hundreds of pages of settlement documents spelling out how the money will be distributed.
In papers filed today, the parties ask Judge Copenhaver to grant preliminary approval for the total settlement sum, the specific details of how much money will be paid for different types of claims, what proof is needed to support each type of claim and who will administer the settlement process.
Before the settlement is final, class members will be given an opportunity to exclude themselves or “opt out” of the settlement or to voice any objection at a final hearing to consider final approval of the settlement, the date of which will be set by the Judge. If approved, distribution of the settlement funds will begin after all claims are filed. Once the claims process starts, claims can be made through a website set up for that purpose or by US mail.
A settlement website has been set up to allow people to get more information about the class settlement and to make their claims on-line but will not go fully live until the Court grants preliminary approval to the settlement. The website is www.wvwaterclaims.com.
Judge Copenhaver has not stated when he will make a ruling on preliminary approval of the settlement. If the Court preliminarily approves the Settlement, the Court will approve distribution of a notice by mail, e-mail and other media further detailing when and how to make your claim, as well as the date by which your claim must be filed. The notice will also tell you the date by which you must exclude yourself, or "opt out" of the class action or make any objection to the settlement. In the interim, you may continue to check back to this website for updates regarding the status of the settlement process.
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:
Individual Review Form Process Under Proposed Settlement
This federal settlement is intended to include businesses and residents who had retained attorneys that filed similar class action or individual cases in state court or who previously opted out of the Good case.
Terms of the settlement create two paths to payment:
(1) Simple Claim Form Option providing set amount payments for Residential Households, Businesses or Governmental Entities,
2) Individual Review Option providing reimbursement of documented losses for Residential Households, Businesses, Governmental Entities, Wage Earners, Medical Claimants, and Pregnancy Claimants.
Money distributed to allowed claims will be net of Court-appointed attorney fees, litigation costs and settlement administration costs. The filings indicate that counsel for the class have requested a fee that averages 28.5% of the funds distributed.
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.
Of the $126 million, West Virginia American Water agreed $76 million will be made available for standard claims and an additional up to $50 million may be available for class members who seek to file and prove additional claims. West Virginia American Water also agreed to waive any request for rate recovery related to payments made toward this settlement.
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.
Individual co-defendants Gary Southern and Dennis Farrell also 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 site was clean without taxpayer funding and that the site never again threatens the region’s water supply.
The Defendants dispute liability related to the Freedom Industries chemical spill.