CHARLESTON—The settlement of the class action lawsuit involving the 2014 water crisis is still awaiting final approval from a federal judge.
Anthony Majestro, an attorney with Powell & Majestro, said all claims have been filed and there were approximately 90,000 claims filed representing approximately 200,000 people.
"We think the notice process and the claims process was a success," Majestro said. "The downside of that success is that the claims administrator is now going through them all and processing them to get ready to pay."
Majestro said they are at a point where the next step is the claims, for which the class members will have the opportunity to cure any defects.
Majestro said during the next two weeks, a notice likely will go out from the claims administrator to those identified as having a claim with an issue, and they will be given the opportunity to fix the defects.
"At the end of that process, the claims process will be done," Majestro said. "People can also appeal the decision of the claims administrator, but we don't expect many of those."
Majestro said the next step is to begin making payments. "The simple claim payments will be done first," Majestro said. "They are the vast majority of the payments."
He said the individual review claims may take a little bit longer.
"We're still waiting on the entry of the final order from Judge [John] Copenhaver," Majestro said. "That order is what triggers the defendant's obligation to make payments under the settlement. We expect that will happen along the same time period as the claims process."
The attorney said they hope the order will be entered in time to make the payments when they are done processing the claims.
The class-action lawsuit alleged West Virginia American Water (WVAW) did not adequately prepare for or respond to the chemical spill and that Eastman Chemical, the maker of the chemical MCHM, did not properly warn Freedom Industries of the dangers of its chemical or take any action when officials learned that the Freedom facility along the Elk River in Charleston was in disrepair.
WVAW and Eastman both deny any liability and blame the crisis on Freedom Industries.
The settlement allows flat payments of $550 for residential households and $180 per additional resident, or an individualized claim with proof of expenditures. Businesses, nonprofits and government entities were also eligible to file claims.
The settlement also provided additional payments to women who were pregnant during the chemical spill.