Settlement Reached in Hurricane Katrina Toxic Trailer Lawsuit
On September 27, 2012, a federal judge gave final approval of a settlement in a class action lawsuit that was filed in Louisiana federal court on behalf of victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita who were temporarily housed in FEMA trailers that contained formaldehyde. Under the terms of the settlement twenty-some different manufacturers of the trailers agreed to pay $37.5 million to settle the claims made by residents living in gulf states who were exposed to the toxic substance.
The class action lawsuit began after Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims were provided with housing by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in the form of trailers. The trailers, however, were allegedly cheaply constructed of plywood and particle board and contained excessive levels of formaldehyde that was, on average, about five times the amount found in most modern homes. The excessive formaldehyde was discovered upon testing after occupants began complaining of health problems including nosebleeds, breathing problems and headaches, the lawsuit sought general damages for personal injuries suffered as a result of being exposed to the formaldehyde. Approximately 55,000 individuals in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas were exposed.
The National Cancer describes formaldehyde as a “known human carcinogen” that is “colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical that is used in building materials and to produce many household products.” Short term effects of formaldehyde exposure include burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing, wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. Studies have shown a long term correlation between formaldehyde exposure and several cancers, including nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia.
More information about the settlement and a list of the various trailer manufacturers can be found here. A special master has been appointed by the court who will determine the awards for each individual plaintiff. Settlement payments are expected to go out late this year or early next year.
If you or someone you know may have suffered injuries as a result of exposure to hidden potentially dangerous and toxic chemicals, please feel free to contact the attorneys at Khorrami, LLP for a free consultation regarding your legal claims.