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Frequently Asked Questions
Below, you will find answers to some frequently asked questions.
Please feel free to contact us if you don't get your questions answered below.
Who are you suing and why?
We are filing lawsuits against rail operator Norfolk Southern. The rail company is responsible for ensuring the safety of the train and its cargo before it derailed, spilling toxic chemicals into the East Palestine community. They are also overseeing often criticized efforts to contain the damage and environmental cleanup. Norfolk Southern’s decisions to prioritize profits over safety caused a dangerous mix of volatile cargo and neglected railroads putting this community at risk. We are working to hold them accountable.

At the end of June 2023, Norfolk Southern sued seven companies that owned the rail cars that derailed, alleging they were the ones responsible for the derailment and should help pay the damages, including interest. These companies are Oxy Vinyls LP, GATX Corp., General American Marks Co., Trinity Industries Leasing Co., SMRC Rail Services LLC, Dow Chemical Inc., and Union Tank Car Co. So, in early August 2023, we amended our filed lawsuits to add these seven companies to the list of defendants.
How do I know if I qualify to participate in this case?
If your life has been impacted by the fiery February 3rd East Palestine train derailment, please contact us to see if you qualify to participate in this case or to learn more about your legal options. We are currently investigating claims for those who were present within 20 miles of the derailment for at least 8 hours between Feb 3 and 8 or those who own property within 10 miles of the derailment. These criteria may change so check back to this page periodically.
What type of injuries can I recover for?
We are currently investigating physical injuries and health concerns of residents exposed to toxic chemicals, economic repercussions of evacuating, as well as damage to property caused by the environmental impact of the East Palestine train derailment.
What is a mass tort? What is a mass tort lawsuit?
A mass tort is a form of injury or harm caused by an act or omission that harms or injures many people. Mass tort actions, also known as mass tort suits, are collections of individual lawsuits that allege the same harm against the same defendants and are grouped together by a judicial panel to reduce redundancies in the judicial system. Unlike the more well-known class-action lawsuit, mass tort suits ultimately have two meaningful differences:

1. They give individuals more control over the specific outcome of their case. Individuals retain their right to select an attorney and if they wish to accept the settlement offered, in the case of a successful suit.

2. Mass tort lawsuits cost absolutely nothing to join. We will represent all qualified individuals and businesses  who have suffered the requisite amount of damages on a contingency basis. This contingency means you will never pay any attorneys’ fees unless we win compensation in your case.
If you are successful, how much do you think my case is worth?
Each claim will be evaluated individually, so there are many variables for compensation. Many of these lawsuits involve the risk of cancer.  It is too early in the litigation for us to estimate how much any one individual’s case might be work.
How do you, the lawyers, get paid?
We operate on what is called a Contingency Fee arrangement. You will pay us, your lawyers, only if you recover money for your damages. If your case does not settle or you do not receive a jury award r, then you will owe us nothing, including any expenses that we advanced on your behalf. This arrangement will be covered in a written agreement between you and us called a CONTRACT OF EMPLOYMENT AND CONSENT TO FEE SHARING.

Again, if the client receives no award, the attorneys are not entitled to receive any payment from the client, including a reimbursement of costs incurred.
What chemicals were spilled and why are they so dangerous?
The Norfolk Southern train was transporting toxic chemical and multiple rail cars and tankers were observed derailed, breached, and/or on fire, that included but not limited to the following materials:

· Vinyl chloride
· Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether
· Ethylhexyl acrylate
· Isobutylene
· Butyl acrylate.

While all of these chemicals can injure when consumed or inhaled, a high health concern is Vinyl Chloride. Vinyl Chloride is classified as a 1A carcinogen, known to have carcinogenic potential for humans and can have damage to nervous system. Five rail car tankers of vinyl chloride were intentionally breached, diverted to an excavated trench, and then burned off. Alarmingly, burning vinyl chloride creates phosgene gas, a chemical warfare agent used in World War One that has been banned by the Geneva Convention.  Burning butyl acrylate also produces poisonous gases. Reports also note the presence of Benzene another, potent carcinogen.

People exposed to many of these chemicals can initially experience a variety of symptoms, including vomiting, headaches, respiratory issues, coughing, burning of the throat and/or eyes, blurred vision, nausea, coughing, and watery eyes.
Why should I hire the associated law firms from East Palestine Justice to represent me?
The associated lawyers of East Palestine Justice have decades of experience in holding negligent and reckless companies accountable for the harm each causes to individuals and their families and businesses. The attorneys at Bevan and Associates, an Ohio-based law firm, have spent much of their careers working on behalf of injured people and those who were hurt or died from asbestos exposure.

Mikal Watts of the national law firm Watts Law Firm LLP is one of America’s leading mass tort lawyers. The Watts Law Firm represents thousands of clients, helping them hold negligent companies responsible for the harm caused when their products contaminate local communities. Additionally, together, the East Palestine Justice-associated firms have years of experience assisting clients dealing with the aftermath of contamination from toxic chemicals and the fallout of chemical exposure on people’s livelihood, while our advocates and activists like Erin Brockovich (not a lawyer) help give voice to those who might not otherwise be heard. Our attorneys have handled and settled some of the largest and most complex mass tort cases in American legal history, such as asbestos cases (the Bevan firm), wildfire cases across the Western United States (Watts Law Firm), and bad drug and product liability cases (Watts Law Firm).
What should I do if I was impacted by the derailment?
It is always recommended that you first seek medical treatment for a full screening of your health. Communicate with your doctor if you were hurt or are experiencing any symptoms due to the inhalation of released toxins into the air. If a medical professional expresses concern, follow their advice for further treatment and contact a lawyer.
What if I live in Pennsylvania and have been impacted by the derailment, can I still participate?
Yes. As long as you meet the criteria for participation, you can participate in this litigation. Please contact us to learn how to get involved.
What should I do if I’m experiencing symptoms that I believe are being caused by exposure to the toxic chemicals that were spilled and burned in the Norfolk Southern train derailment?
We are sorry to hear of anyone who is experiencing symptoms. Because we are not medical professionals we urge anyone who is experiencing symptoms that you believe are being caused by the toxic chemicals to see the medical professional of your choice as soon as possible. The other thing you might consider doing as well is keeping a detailed journal that describes your physical and emotional condition including any symptoms you are suffering from.
If I was not able to attend any of your meetings, is there a place where I can watch a recording?
Yes, please click here to view a recording of our latest meeting.
I’ve heard that some attorneys are suggesting that I get my bodily fluids tested for exposure to the toxic chemicals released by the Norfolk Southern Train Derailment. What tests should I get?
Because these answers are publicly available and we may not be your attorneys, we cannot give you specific advice about your case, including what type of testing to get done. However, as general advice, you may want to reach out to the medical professional of your choice to see if she or he believes it is medically necessary or helpful to order a set of tests for you. Please let your medical professional know that the chemicals that we know were released into the atmosphere are: Vinyl chloride, Hydrogren chloride (from burning vinyl chloride), Hydrochloric acid (from burning vinyl chloride), Phosgene (from burning vinyl chloride), Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, Ethylhexyl acrylate, Isobutylene, Butyl acrylate and Benzene.
Is it safe to live in and around East Palestine and should I move out of the area?
These are questions that only you can answer for you and/or your family. If you decide to join the litigation, with our group, or any other law firm, and you do move or temporarily locate, you should document any expenses you’ve incurred during the transition.
Who is in charge of the clean up of the derailment site and the contamination that occurred?
On February 21, 2023, the US EPA ordered Norfolk Southern to not only clean up but pay for all of the cleanup caused by the derailment. As part of EPA’s legally binding order, Norfolk Southern will be required to:

- Identify and clean up contaminated soil and water resources.
- Reimburse EPA for cleaning services to be offered to residents and businesses to provide an additional layer of reassurance, which will be conducted by EPA staff and contractors.
- Attend and participate in public meetings at EPA’s request and post information online.
- Pay for EPA’s costs for work performed under this order.

As part of the order, EPA will approve a work plan outlining all steps necessary to clean up the environmental damage caused by the derailment. If the company fails to complete any actions as ordered by EPA, the Agency will immediately step in, conduct the necessary work, and then seek to compel Norfolk Southern to pay triple the cost.  
Are there any deadlines related to the litigation that I should be aware of?
Yes, just as in all litigation, there is a deadline for when you can file a lawsuit for damages you suffer as the result of the action of others. This is called a Statute of Limitations. In Ohio the statute of limitations on property damage and personal injury claims is two years from the date of the accident. So, if you decide you want to sue Norfolk Southern for the damages it caused, you would need to do so by February 2, 2025. However, if you decide to hire an attorney, we would suggest you do so much earlier than the two year deadline in order to give any lawyer enough time to build out your full damages and prepare to file your case.
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