Attorney David Betras, managing partner of Betras, Kopp and Markota, will conduct a public meeting on Thursday, February 16, 2023 to provide information and answer questions about the the Norfolk Southern train derailment, fire, and subsequent release of toxic chemicals that endangered people living in East Palestine, Ohio, eastern Ohio, and western Pennsylvania. The meeting will be held at the Shale Restaurant, 40964 State Route 154 in Lisbon, Ohio from 10:30 AM to Noon.
“Our office has been inundated with calls and messages from frightened, worried, and outraged residents since the derailment occurred,” Atty. Betras said. “People are confused about what they should do, whom they should trust, and what steps they should take to protect themselves, their families, businesses, and their legal rights. We’ll answer those questions and provide sound advice during the meeting.”
Attorney Betras urged people living in and within a 50-to-60-mile radius of East Palestine to attend the session because they have been exposed to the toxic brew of dangerous chemicals that were spewed into the air and spilled onto the ground and into the nearby streams and rivers as a result of crash. “We know that cars being driven in the rain 70 miles from the crash site have been covered in foul-smelling residue, that people getting on the Ohio turnpike in North Lima just two days ago reported feeling dizzy and light-headed, and that fish have been dying in the area streams and rivers,” Atty. Betras said. “Everyone in the region should be extremely cautious as the investigation of the derailment and its aftermath continues.”
Caution is required because new information about the chemicals in the train’s tank cars is being revealed as the inquiry by federal officials continues. “Initially, the main concern was vinyl chloride and its toxic components that were emitted into the air in large plumes of smoke during a controlled release,” Atty. Betras said. “Now we have learned that some of the cars were carrying other dangerous and potentially cancer-causing substances that were released into the air, ground, and water after the crash. Exposure to all these chemicals clearly presents a health risk to residents of this region.”
Residents and business owners should also exercise caution when dealing with either Norfolk Southern or the class action law firms that have descended on the area in the days after the crash. “According to reports, representatives of Norfolk Southern, a company worth $55 billion, are going door-to-door in East Palestine offering people small checks to defray their expenses,” Betras commented. “Everyone should carefully examine any papers or forms they are given to ensure they are not signing away their rights to sue the railroad in the future.”
“The same warning applies to representation agreements being circulated by out-of-town law firms,” he continued. “They are here to round up clients and as soon as they do, they’ll be gone and unreachable. There is no need to retain counsel before a more complete picture of exactly what happened and how it will impact people in the future emerges.”
Betras said the BKM legal team will not jeopardize the case by rushing into court. “We will thoroughly review the law and legal precedents, study the facts as they become available, and assess the potential damages before we file what would most likely be a federal class action lawsuit. One thing is certain, however, if we do file our clients will be able to reach us 24-7, 365 because we practice and live in this community.”
“Damages in cases involving environmental disasters like this go beyond the impact it has on health, lost wages, and loss of business income,” Betras noted. “For example, according to a US EPA study, incidents that cause property damage, evacuations, or shelter-in-place orders lead to a significant decrease in home values that cost families thousands of dollars. People concerned about the long-term impact of the spill may leave the area which will have a negative impact on businesses. The potential losses could reach into the tens of millions of dollars.”
Betras said his firm’s legal team, which has secured numerous multimillion dollar awards from Fortune 500 companies is more than capable of taking on Norfolk Southern. “The National Transportation Safety Board has identified the cause of this disaster,” he said. “NS is responsible for this dangerous situation and should be held accountable for the damage they have done to our families, our communities, and our environment. We look forward to discussing all the options available to residents of the region on Thursday.”
Clients will be accepted during the meeting.
For more information please contact Atty. David Betras at 330-503-9696.