Lawyers ask East Palestinian residents to wait for details of $600 million derailment settlement

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (AP) — Lawyers who negotiated $600 million settlement The Norfolk Southern government wants to talk to residents about the tragic 2023 train derailment in Ohio before deciding a historic agreement isn't enough.

They said Wednesday that the settlement for everyone within 20 miles of the East Palestine disaster is larger than any previously announced derailment settlement. These include the worst incident in recent memory when a crude oil train went out of control downhill and killed 47 people in Lake Megantic. Canada, 2013.

Apocalyptic footage of a train derailment in a small town on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border has sparked calls for rail safety reform and exposed persistent fear in the community. Three days after the accident ignited a toxic mixture of chemicals, authorities blew up five PVC tank cars that they feared would explode, sending large amounts of black smoke into the sky over East Palestine as the chemicals burned. was released.

Lawyers on Wednesday moved to address residents' concerns that the settlement is not enough, saying compensation would vary based on the severity of the derailment's impact on each person. After Tuesday's settlement announcement, several residents expressed concern that the money, distributed among so many people, might not be enough to cover future medical costs if they later develop cancer. He said he was concerned that this might happen.

“This is different from the AT&T settlement where everyone gets $2. It's very personal in terms of all kinds of criteria, whether you live there or not, whether you rent, etc.,” said Jayne Conroy, one of Simmons Hanley's lead attorneys. Conroy.

The formula to determine how much each person will receive is still being developed. And before those awards can be calculated, a federal judge must give preliminary approval to the deal.

This contract includes a personal injury indemnity clause. Accepting that money will prevent future claims for cancer or other terrible diseases that may develop in the future, but community members can deny medical bills but still receive payments for property damage. can.

Mike Morgan, one of the other lead attorneys in the Morgan & Morgan case, said the settlement was not actually intended to compensate for serious health problems that might develop later. Stated. But none of the experts consulted during the lawsuit said that even if all the chemicals were spilled and ignited, or were deliberately released and burned three days later to prevent a five-tank truck accident. Even PVC did not anticipate that the derailment would cause a large cancer cluster, he said. explode.

Morgan said it's important to remember that this lawsuit is not about huge cleanup costs, which the railroad has already spent more than $1.1 billion on. The state and federal governments have filed separate lawsuits to address this.

Gas station owner Anna Doss said she is waiting for details on how the money will be distributed but is optimistic the settlement will help the town move forward. Like many others in town, Doss' business is struggling, but he's ready to try to overcome the derailment. She lost a quarter of her sales last year and now her retirement plans are up in the air because her niece, who had planned to buy her business, moved to Florida.

“We just hope things go well and that everything that has been done works to build a better community,” Doss said.

Of course, no East Palestine resident is immune to concerns that this derailment could lead to serious health problems in the years to come. Tammy Tsai choked up when she said she and her husband decided to cash in their retirement funds and move her out because she feared staying in a “toxic community.” .

“We are fortunate to have some retirees,” she said. “But what about those who don't? Do they want to get out of here or are they sick?”

The fact that the settlement includes several large towns around East Palestine led Tsai to imagine that the residents would leave with only small fragments of the larger city. She worries that the disease will worsen in the future, making it difficult for residents to receive compensation.

She felt that this settlement would only benefit southern Norfolk and would bring little benefit to their pockets.

The railroad's CEO, Alan Shaw, acknowledged the deal would help remove some financial uncertainty for the company, but in an investor presentation Wednesday he said it would also help the town. He claimed that it was good and could help people recover.

“This provides financial relief for individuals and eligible businesses to apply for in the manner of their choice,” Shaw said. “What it really does is address a lot of the financial risks that existed for Norfolk Southern and our stockholders and remove that tail risk.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a new op-ed Wednesday that what the country really owes East Palestine, beyond monetary payments, is to make its railroads safer. He again called on Congress to pass reforms that would create stricter standards for inspections and track detectors proposed after derailments, as well as give authorities the power to impose even higher fines.

“If we get this right, their communities will be known not only for the derailment that changed their daily lives, but also for the life-saving reforms that followed,” Buttigieg said.

https://www.nbc4i.com/news/state-news/lawyers-want-east-palestine-residents-to-wait-for-details-of-600-million-derailment-settlement/ Lawyers ask East Palestinian residents to wait for details of $600 million derailment settlement

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