Women pregnant during water contamination crisis to get checks soon

By Kyla Asbury | Jan 1, 2019

CHARLESTON — Individual review claims and claims for women who were pregnant during the water contamination crisis nearly five years ago will receive payment.

An application for approval to pay approved uncontested individual review option claims was filed on Dec. 31 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Charleston.

"We finally got clearance from Medicare to pay the pregnancy claims, so we filed on Monday an application to have the court approve those payments," Anthony Majestro, an attorney for the class, said in an interview with The West Virginia Record.

The class counsel is seeking to remit payment for 1,154 individual review option pregnancy claims, according to the application.


Anthony Majestro  

All of the pregnancy claimants were submitted to The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid for verification of enrollment and nine of the claimants had Medicare Part A and/or Part B entitlement during the exposure period, according to the application. Those claims total $135 and none of the other individual review option pregnancy claimants included in the application matched enrollment records in the Medicare and Medicaid systems.

The application states that the individual review option claims total $2,885,151.56. The settlement administration fees for the individual review option claims total $236,240.

Majestro said along with the individual claims and pregnancy claims, they're also asking for approval of payment to one business claim.

"These are all of the individual review claims that had to be approved," Majestro said. "We’re waiting on the judge to sign that order, which shouldn’t take too long because it’s not contested."

Majestro said once the judge approves the application, checks can be sent out within a week or so.

The 2014 chemical spill affected more than 300,000 people in nine West Virginia counties.

District Judge John Copenhaver signed the final order in June and checks for simple claims went out in September.

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 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 total claims filed in the class action totaled more $162 million, meaning the settlements were lowered from approximately a $550 flat payment to $440.

Copenhaver also lowered the amount assessed in attorney fees from 25 percent to 22 percent so that more money will go to the claimants.

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

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