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Good v. W. Va. Am. Water Co.

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20087
Nos. 14-1374, (S.D. W. Va., 07/06/2017)

A district court rejected a public utility's attempt at a global settlement with those impacted by a 2014 chemical spill into West Virginia's Elk River. On January 9, 2014, over 224,000 residents of Charleston, West Virginia, and the surrounding area suffered an interruption in their water supply caused by a spill of a mixture composed primarily of a chemical known as Crude MCHM. The Plaintiffs filed a class action suit, asserting that the water company could have prevented the incident with better precautions, regulatory compliance, and use of reasonable care. Some class members operated businesses that lost revenue due to the interruption. Others claimed physical injuries, asserting that exposure to Crude MCHM in the environment caused bodily injury and necessitated medical monitoring, as well as property damage. After negotiations, the parties submitted the pending Settlement Agreement for preliminary approval on April 27, 2017 as a resolution of all claims, including a two-tier common fund from which the Settlement Administrator will pay monies to class-member claimants through a claims submission process. The court directed the parties to modify the settlement, raising concerns that the structure created unfairness and wasn't flexible enough to account for substantial differences that arise from different injury claims.