Sixty-six people in Mobile County have filed lawsuits in federal court against the manufacturers of travel trailers which they say exposed them to dangerous levels of formaldehyde after Hurricane Katrina. The Plaintiffs join about 23,000 others who have filed suits in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. The Alabama suits name seven manufacturers, along with those who won no-bid contracts to install the trailers. The complaints in the civil lawsuits contend that the Plaintiffs, who live mainly in south Mobile County, developed conditions such as asthma and are at an increased risk of cancer.
Lawyers handling the litigation say the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be added as a Defendant, but that can’t happen under federal law until after a 180-day waiting period. This suit — along with other civil lawsuits that lawyers plan to file by August 1st — will be transferred to a federal judge in New Orleans. That judge has been appointed to oversee all of the travel trailer litigation along the Gulf Coast.
It’s alleged in the lawsuits that the companies resorted to substandard materials in order to expedite the manufacture of the housing units and failing to warn the government. The way the contractors installed the trailers caused stress and flexing on their frames, increasing moisture and formaldehyde exposure, according to the allegations. Internal FEMA e-mails uncovered by a Congressional investigation showed that government officials were more concerned with potential lawsuits than in ensuring the health and safety of some 150,000 families that needed temporary housing after Katrina and Hurricane Rita.
Ronnie Penton, a lawyer from Slidell, Louisiana, is representing the Plaintiffs in this litigation. It appears the evidence is clear that government officials knew about the formaldehyde risks and failed to tell the public about it. The first of the FEMA trailer lawsuits is scheduled to go to trial in New Orleans in September. The federal judge in New Orleans will handle all pretrial matters in the Alabama cases before sending them back to Mobile for trial. The Plaintiffs seek compensation for past and future injuries, as well as punitive damages against the manufacturers and contractors.
Source: Mobile Press Register
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