NEW ORLEANS - (Mealey's) The parties to the multidistrict Federal Emergency Management Agency formaldehyde trailer litigation consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana filed a joint motion April 13 for certification of a settlement class and for preliminary approval of a global settlement of all remaining claims in the litigation; the amount of the settlement is confidential (In re: FEMA Trailer Formaldehyde Products Liability Litigation, No. 07-1873, MDL 1873, E.D. La.).
(Stipulation of settlement available. Document #15-120501-010B. Joint brief in support of approving settlement agreement available. Document #15-120501-012B. Proposed settlement order available. Document #15-120501-013B. Individual settlement sheets available. Document #15-120501-014B.)
The multidistrict litigation was created in 2007. As of September, more than 66,000 plaintiffs had filed a fact sheet in the litigation, according to the record. The claimants allege personal injuries from exposure to formaldehyde in emergency housing units (EHUs) provided at no cost by FEMA after hurricanes struck the Gulf of Mexico coast in August 2005 and September 2005.
"Due to the denial of a litigated class and the total defense results of three bellwether trials, along with over 100 depositions taken and 40,000 pages of documents exchanged between the Parties, the Parties have obtained sufficient information to reasonably assess the merits of their respective claims and defenses," according to the parties.
"The consensus of the Parties is that the certification of a settlement class, the immediate payment of the proposed Settlement Amount for each group of Settling Defendants, and the Court's supervision thereof is likely to result in the greatest benefit to the class Members, as well as ensuring peace and finality in this matter to the Parties involved," according to the parties.
The putative settlement class is defined by the parties as individuals who claim damages for exposure to formaldehyde in EHUs provided by FEMA for persons displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita and allege a medical, psychological or psychiatric injury or illness as a result of the exposure.
Some 16 groups of defendants filed settlement sheets endorsing the agreement. Settlement funds will be distributed based on claims-specific groups.
The groups include EHU manufacturers and insurance companies. The groups led by Play'Mor Trailers Inc., Recreation by Design, Cruiser RV and Skyline Corp. negotiated to file settlement amounts under seal.
The group led by Coachman Industries revealed it will contribute $1,000,974.16 to the settlement fund. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., characterized as the alleged insurer of R-Vision Inc., will contribute $750,000 to the settlement fund.
The group led by Thor Industries Inc. will contribute $6,250,000 to the settlement fund. The group led by SunRay R.V. will contribute $205,000. Hy-Line Enterprises Inc. and the defendants in its group will contribute $122,450 to the fund.
Pilgrim International Inc. and its insurers will contribute $887,250. KZRV will contribute $1,250,000 to the settlement fund, Timberland RV Co. and its group will contribute $443,300 and Heartland Recreational Vehicles will contribute $552,600.
The parties agree to the appointment of Daniel Balhoff of Perry Dampf Dispute Solutions in Baton Rouge to serve as a special master to evaluate the claim forms and other documents submitted by the claimants in the settlement class.
The parties agree that the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee will serve as settlement class counsel.
The parties propose a fairness hearing to be scheduled for Aug. 1.
Gerald E. Meunier and Justin I. Woods of Gainsburgh, Benjamin, David, Meunier & Warshauer in New Orleans; Anthony G. Buzbee of Buzbee Law Firm in Houston; Robert M. Becnel of Law Offices of Robert M. Becnel in Laplace, La.; Raul R. Bencomo of Bencomo & Associates in New Orleans; Frank J. D'Amico Jr. of Law Offices of Frank D'Amico in New Orleans; Matthew B. Moreland of Becnel Law Firm in Reserve, La.; Dennis C. Reich of Reich & Binstock in Houston; Mikal C. Watts of Watts, Guerra & Craft in San Antonio; and Richard C. Hilliard of Hilliard Munoz Guerra in Corpus Christi, Texas, comprise the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee.
James C. Perecy and Ryan E. Johnson of Jones Walker in Baton Rouge are Defendants Settlement Liaison Counsel.
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