It's been over a month since nearly 20% of Lawtell residents were forced to evacuate their homes after a chemical train derailment. Residents are back in their homes, but several class action lawsuits have been filed from plaintiffs seeking monetary damages.
Lawsuits are expected after any disaster and the Union Pacific train derailment is no exception. Three class action suits have been filed, including one in the hands of attorney Charles Cravins. Cravins is representing nearly 200 people who are seeking damages which may result from the chemical spill.
“Property damage has been done in that area. We don't know how many farmers and we don't know how much livestock are going to be impacted or products that are marketed in that area,” said Cravins.
Last month, the Department of Environmental Quality confirmed the substances found in water near the site to be lube oil and dodecanol. While the DEQ says those are not considered toxic, there are still potential side-effects. News 10 obtained a copy of research funded by Union Pacific. It claims the chemicals involved in the spill pose little to no long term harm to humans or livestock that may have consumed water from the nearby ditches or Bayou Mallet.
But Cravins says he doesn't agree with their findings.
“I think that you can expect Union Pacific will paint the rosiest picture that they possibly can. Is that to say that they're just going to lie? I would never accuse them of that. But, they're going to paint the rosiest picture possible,” said Cravins.
The claims range from being inconvenienced by the short evacuation to millions of dollars in property damage.
“The facts are going to come out,” said Cravins. “Experts are going to testify and those affected will be made whole.”
The case is expected to go to Federal District Court on May 19th.