2014 West Virginia chemical spill class-action trial delayed from mid-July starting date
May 15, 2016 11:35 PM EDT
A federal judge on Friday has delayed the trial in the class-action lawsuit filed against West Virginia American Water Co. and Eastman Chemical over their roles in the January 2014 water crisis.
During a monthly status hearing, United States District Judge John Copenhaver asked from the attorneys more time to review and rule on several motions that need to be decided before the trial, which according to The Washington Times had been set for July 12 in Charleston. Although Judge Copenhaver did not set an exact date for the trial, he did give a June 10 schedule for another status hearing.
Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that the postponement of the trial gives time as well for a potential mediation session in late June, should rival factions of plaintiffs' attorneys pursuing the case and separate lawsuits pending in state court reach an agreement on holding such mediation.
West Virginia American's lawyer, Tom Hurney, said the water company is only interested in the said mediation only if lawyers representing the aforementioned parties willingly show up to seek a settlement.
"Our goal is to have a discussion with all of the plaintiffs," Hurney told Copenhaver. "We are waiting for confirmation that, in fact, the two groups of plaintiffs are prepared to appear and to make the effort."
Residents and businesses filed the class-action lawsuit against Eastman Chemical, West Virginia American Water and its parent company, American Water Works, over their roles in the January 2014 spill which contaminated the Elk River drinking water supply that serves Charleston and its surrounding communities.
According to Canmua, the said spill prompted a ban on drinking tap water for 300,000 people for several days.
Lawyers are reportedly pursuing the water company, alleging it did not prepare for such spill and respond appropriately to the incident. Eastman Chemical, on the other hand, is accused of violating chemical safety laws by not disclosing details about the chemical MCHM'S impact to one's health and its potential to contaminate Freedom's storage tanks.
Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy eight days after the incident. Gary Southern and Dennis Farrell, former company officials, were sentenced to a month in federal prison on pollution charges while four others received probation.