Kanawha Judge Orders Freedom Industries to Preserve Evidence After Chemical Leak
On Monday, January 13, 2014 - just four days after the chemical leak was discovered at the Freedom Industries facility - a Kanawha Circuit Court Judge granted a temporary restraining order to preserve evidence at the site of the leak. The order comes in response to a wave of civil lawsuits that have been filed against Freedom Industries and West Virginia American Water after the leak spread into the Elk River, resulting in a federal state of emergency.
By Monday, at least 18 separate lawsuits had been filed, many of which petitioned for class-action status. The complaints were filed on behalf of local businesses - including restaurants - which were forced to close as a result of a tap water ban that spanned nine counties. Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC was the first firm in the state of West Virginia to file a lawsuit against Freedom Industries on Friday morning - less than 24 hours after the leak was discovered.
The order will prevent Freedom Industries from removing any evidence from its facility and the site of the leak, allowing experts, officials, and firms like our own to conduct inspections as lawsuits progress. By ensuring that the facility is in as close a condition as possible to when the leak occurred - as the order mandates - the order will pave the way for accurate assessments into the underlying cause. Freedom Industries must also preserve documents relating to past chemical leaks and chemical storage policies.
By understanding how and why this leak occurred, legal advocates will have the evidence needed to hold Freedom Industries liable for the damages and losses local residents and businesses suffered. Safety officials can also use the evidence and findings to better determine policies that will prevent such devastating errors from occurring in the future.
It's Not Just Businesses. It's Personal
The order is an essential step in protecting the rights of the more than 300,000 West Virginians affected by the spill, as well as the businesses, restaurants, and schools that were forced to shut down. Our very own Attorney Bernie Layne - who was present at Monday's hearing - was recently interviewed by both Reuters and Law 360, stating that numerous concerned residents are contacting the firm by the minute. Many of the restaurants and businesses affected by the closures operated on a tight budget, with owners and employees often living paycheck to paycheck. They are now seeking to recover lost income.
At Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC, our West Virginia lawyers are well aware that our clients' struggles are deeply personal, which is why we are dedicated to supporting and fighting for all those impacted by the negligence of Freedom Industries.
If you would like more information about your rights, filing a claim, and how our firm can help, fill out a free case evaluation form or call (800) 900-0673.