Judge delays settlement with former Freedom officials

By Kyla Asbury | Jun 21, 2016

CHARLESTON – District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. has delayed any action being taken on a settlement proposed against two of Freedom Industries’ officials involving the 2014 chemical spill into the Elk River.

Copenhaver informed Gary Southern and Dennis Farrell’s attorneys that he would not to see more movement toward similar settlements in two other lawsuits related to the chemical spill before he agrees to sign off on the class-action settlement.

According to court documents, Monday’s conference lasted seven minutes.

“Counsel for defendants updated the court on settlement negotiations in related cases,” the document states. “The court continued the hearing to be heard generally in conjunction with status conferences in this matter, beginning July 7, 2016.”

Copenhaver said he would not schedule further hearings on the case until he has heard of some progress, but that each month at the regular status conferences , the attorneys should report progress.

The class action lawsuit involves thousands of residents and businesses whose drinking water was contaminated with MCHM during the chemical spill into the Elk River from Freedom’s facility in January 2014.

This was the third hearing Copenhaver has held on the settlement with Southern and Farrell since the proposed settlement was filed on Dec. 9.

Southern would pay $350,000 and Farrell would pay $50,000 to class members in the case.

In a previous hearing, Copenhaver said he had not been presented adequate evidence to weigh Farrell’s financial situation with his ability to pay any settlement. Farrell declined to provide financial information at the next hearing when

Copenhaver said the details would have to be made public to be considered when he rules on the proposed settlement.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 2:14-cv-01374

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