FEMA Not Dismissed From Toxic Trailer Lawsuits

According to a recent federal court ruling, evidence suggests that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) failed to promptly investigate complaints about formaldehyde levels in trailers distributed in 2005 to Gulf Coast hurricane victims, and a motion to dismiss the agency from toxic trailer lawsuits was denied.

About 800 people have filed cases alleging severe injuries caused by high levels of formaldehyde in the trailers given to them by FEMA after hurricanes Rita and Katrina.

The toxic trailer lawsuits allege that FEMA only established minimal requirements for manufacturers and recreational vehicle dealers when they purchased 140,000 trailers for people who were displaced from their homes. The plaintiffs also allege that FEMA failed to take steps to ensure the trailers were safe to live in.

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During the months after individuals started receiving the trailers, many started complaining of problems such as difficulty breathing and burning in the eyes, nose and mouth.

A CDC investigation revealed that the trailers were toxic, with high levels of formaldehyde exposing roughly 300,000 people, including many children, to a risk of injury.

High levels of formaldehyde were found in pressed wood products, such as particle board and plywood, which were used during construction of the FEMA trailers. In warm weather, the wood let out toxic fumes, and poor ventilation caused people living in the trailers to experience prolonged exposure to the toxic chemical.

In July, lawyers representing FEMA argued to the Court that the agency should be dismissed from the federal lawsuits filed over the toxic trailers, stating that they should be immune from liability. However, lawyers representing families who lived in the toxic trailers told the court that the agency’s negligence went “hand in hand” with the negligence of the manufacturers.

In a 48 page ruling issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt denied the request and said: “Indeed, the evidence shows that FEMA initially ignored the potential formaldehyde problem and neglected to conduct testing in fear that such testing would imply FEMA’s ownership of the issue.”

Lawyers representing hurricane victims are seeking class action status for the lawsuits. However, the judge has not yet to ruled on the request to certify a toxic FEMA trailer class action suit on behalf of everyone who was exposed to the high levels of formaldehyde.

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1 Comments

  • UMELIAMarch 27, 2011 at 1:57 am

    I WOULD LIKE SOMEONE TO CONTACT ME ABOUT HAVING MY 2006 FEMA TRAVEL TRAILER TESTED FOR FORMALDEHYDE AND ALSO I HAVE JUST LEARNED THAT IT HAS OCCURED EXTENSIVE WATER DAMAGE DUE TO MANUFACTURE BUILDING. THIS IS MY FIRST ATTEMP ANY ASSISTANCE WILL BE GREATLY APPRECIATED

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