Thousands planning to sue Chevron after refinery fire

August 8, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Thousands of Richmond residents say they have gotten sick from Monday's refinery fire and they are planning to sue Chevron.

"The first day my skin was burning really bad," Lashawna Taylor said.

Taylor wants to sue Chevron. She is among the 2,000 people who have lined up over the last two days at the office of personal injury attorney Nick Haney. He's made it very clear, with signs in his office window, he will file claims against the refinery.

"You know, I try to do what I can to make sure they are all legitimate; if you ask me is there anyone who came here that didn't feel the effects of the fire, I can't guarantee that all I can do us my best to weed them out," Haney said.

Haney's staff makes frequent announcements about the need for medical documentation and many do have paperwork from areas hospitals that have been swamped. For example, Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo has seen 600 people so far even though the Bay Area Air Quality Management District says there's no significant health concern. .

"Yes, yes, I suffer from bronchio-asthma," Richmond resident Velma Smith said when asked of her claim was legitimate.

Bruce Budner teaches legal ethics at UC Berkeley School of Law. He says attorneys have the right to solicit clients and the courts will decide whether any lawsuits are frivolous.

"If Chevron, in this instance, believes illegitimate claims have been filed against it, there are various procedural techniques that it can follow in order to get those claims thrown out of court," he said.

Well over 1,000 people have called to file claims against the refinery using the company's own hotline, no surprise given the heated community meeting Chevron held Tuesday night.

Chevron was hit with similar lawsuits after its 2007 refinery fire. The company had no figures Wednesday for how much it paid out back then, but says in this latest incident Chevron will compensate any appropriate and reasonable claims.

"Medical, property damage, loss of income for businesses," Chevron spokesperson Heather Kulp said.

Anyone wishing to file a claim against Chevron can call the Chevron Claims Hotline at 1-866-260-7881. The company also plans to set up an office in Richmond so people can file claims in person.


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