CHARLESTON – More than 100 people have asked to be excluded from a class action settlement over the 2014 water contamination crisis in West Virginia.
As of Jan. 12, a total of 103 individuals filed opt-out forms in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
Two others filed objections to the proposed settlement in the federal court.
The cutoff for objecting to the settlement or opting out of the litigation class is Feb. 12. All objections or opt-out notices must be personally signed.
According to a settlement notice filed with the Southern District of West Virginia last month, two former officers and employees of Freedom Industries – Gary Southern and Dennis Farrell – have agreed to pay $350,000 and $50,000, respectively, into the registry of the court, pending further order, for the benefit of the class in exchange for a release of all claims against them.
No money is to be distributed at this time, the notice states. The court must approve any use of the funds and will do so “only upon application by class counsel.”
In Good, et al. v. American Water Works Company, et al., the plaintiffs allege American Water Works Company Inc., West Virginia-American Water Company, Eastman Chemical Company, Southern and Farrell could have prevented or avoided the contamination with better precautionary measures, compliance with applicable regulations and the use of reasonable care.
A chemical called MCHM was released from a Freedom Industries facility into the Elk River on Jan. 9, 2014 and affected nine West Virginia counties.
The defendants assert they acted in compliance with all applicable regulations and used reasonable care and allege that Freedom Industries bears responsibility.
Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. is overseeing the case.
Copenhaver has scheduled a final approval hearing on the proposed settlement with the individual defendants for April 8.
Those who choose to remain in the class will receive a payment once the court grants final approval of the settlement.
By opting out of the class action lawsuit and choosing not to participate, an individual has the right to file an individual lawsuit against the defendants – and can seek whatever amount of damages they believe they are entitled.
The court has appointed Stuart Calwell of Charleston law firm The Calwell Practice PLLC, Kevin Thompson of Charleston firm Thompson Barney PLLC and Van Bunch of Phoenix-area firm Bonnett Fairbourn Friedman & Balint PC to serve as class counsel.