Frequently Asked Questions

Below please find answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the settlement process.

Settlement Information

1. About these FAQs

These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) summarize the lawsuit, the settlement, your legal rights, what benefits are available, who may be eligible for those benefits, and how to get them.  For a more detailed and precise explanation of your legal rights and options, you should review the Amended Settlement Agreement and the exhibits to that Agreement. You can get a copy of the Amended Settlement Agreement here. You also may write with questions to WV Water Settlement Administrator, P.O. Box 4227, Charleston, WV 25364 or call 1-855-829-8121.

2. Why did I receive a Notice?

The Court in charge of this case authorized the Notice because you have a right to know about the proposed Settlement of the lawsuit and all of your options before the Court decides whether to give final approval to the Settlement. The Notice summarizes the Settlement and explains your legal rights and options.

Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia is overseeing this case. The case is known as Good v. West Virginia-American Water Company, Inc., No. 2:14-cv- 01374. The people who sued are called the “Plaintiffs.” West Virginia-American Water Company, American Water Works Service Company, Inc. and American Water Works Company, Inc. (together called “American Water”), and Eastman Chemical Company (“Eastman”) are the “Defendants.”

3. What is the litigation about?

On January 9, 2014, a chemical leak into the Elk River at the Freedom Industries tank farm near Charleston caused over two hundred thousand residential and business water users served by West Virginia American Water American Water to be without tap water other than for toilet flushing and fire protection (the “Incident”). Freedom Industries purchased the chemical, Crude MCHM, from Eastman.  The class action lawsuit claims that American Water and Eastman could have prevented or avoided the event with better precautionary measures, compliance with applicable regulations and the use of reasonable care.

Portions of nine counties (Boone, Cabell (Salt Rock/Culloden area), Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane) in West Virginia—where more than 224,000 residents and 7,300 businesses were located—were affected by the water contamination.

American Water and Eastman strongly dispute the claims in the class action lawsuit and deny any fault or liability for the chemical leak or contamination of the drinking water.

4. What is a class action?

In a class action, one or more people or companies (who are called “class representatives”) sue on behalf of themselves and other people with similar claims. In this case, there are 14 class representatives. All people with similar claims are the proposed class or class members. When a class action is settled, the settlement resolves the claims for the class and all class members, except for those who exclude themselves.  Excluding yourself means that you will not receive any benefits from the Settlement.  The process for excluding yourself is described in Question 9.

5. Why is there a Settlement?

The class representatives and their lawyers (“Settlement Class Counsel,” see Question 14) believe that the proposed Settlement is best for everyone who is affected. A settlement is an agreement between a plaintiff and a defendant to resolve a lawsuit. This Settlement resolves the lawsuit without the court or a jury ruling in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant. A settlement allows the parties to avoid the cost and risk of a trial, as well as the delays of litigation.

6. What are the benefits of the settlement?

The Settlement will pay:

  • Eligible settlement class members,
  • Attorneys’ fees and expenses (see Question 15), and
  • The cost of notice and settlement administration.

 

Participation

7. Where is the money coming from to pay the class members, attorneys and costs?

American Water will pay $76 million (less attorneys’ fees and administrative expenses) for Simple Claim Form payments to residential households and businesses, and

American Water will pay up to an additional $50 million (less attorneys’ fees and administrative expenses) for reimbursement and payment to:

  • businesses and residential households based on specific, documented losses,
  • residents who were pregnant at the time of the Incident or demonstrate medical claims resulting from the spill and contamination, and
  • workers whose place of employment was shut down or partially shut down for lost hourly wages.

Eastman will pay up to $25 million (less attorneys’ fees and administrative expenses) to pay for property damage and physical injury claims including Simple Claim Form payments to residential household and business claimants.

In addition, the proceeds of the prior settlements reached in the Good v. American Water Works Company, Inc. action with Defendants Dennis Farrell ($50,000) and Gary Southern ($350,000) will be distributed by the Settlement Administrator in this Settlement to pay Simple Claim Form payments to Residential Households who did not opt out of the class certified by the Court by its Order dated October 8, 2015.

8. Will this settlement make my water bill go up?

The simple answer is NO.  American Water agreed as part of the settlement that it (1) will not seek rate recovery from or through the Public Service Commission of West Virginia for response costs relating to the Freedom Chemical Spill; (2) will not seek rate recovery from or through the Public Service Commission of West Virginia for amounts paid pursuant to the final Amended Settlement Agreement; and (3) will work cooperatively with the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health for the purpose of entering into an agreement to provide for the reasonable use by the Bureau of Public Health during emergencies or other water quality investigations of Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectrometer equipment at West Virginia American’s Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant.

9. How do I get out of the Settlement?

To exclude yourself from the Settlement, you must mail a letter or other written document to the Settlement Administrator.  Your request must include:

  • Your name, mailing address, email address (if any) and telephone number;
  • Location of the Residence or Business that was serviced by American Water’s Kanawha Valley Treatment Plant (“KVTP”) on January 9, 2014;
  • Identification of the position of authority for the person submitting the Opt Out for a Business;
  • A statement regarding whether you intend to bring a separate claim against American Water or Eastman;
  • Your signature; and
  • Date

You must mail your exclusion request, postmarked no later than December 8, 2017, to WV Water Settlement Opt Outs, P.O. Box 4227, Charleston, WV 25364.

10. If I do not exclude myself, can I sue American Water and Eastman for the same thing later?

No, unless you exclude yourself, you give up the right to sue American Water or Eastman for all of the claims that this Settlement resolves.  If you want to maintain your own lawsuit relating to the claims released by the Settlement, then you must exclude yourself by December 8, 2017.

11. If I exclude myself, can I still get benefits from this Settlement?

No.  If you exclude yourself, you will not be eligible for any money from the Settlement.

12. How do I tell the Court I do not like the Settlement?

If you do not exclude yourself from the Settlement, you can object to it if you do not like some part of it. The Court will consider your views. To object to the Settlement, you or your attorney must submit your written objection to the Court. Your objection must include the following:

  • Your name, mailing address, and telephone number;
  • A statement saying that you “object to the Settlement in Good v. West Virginia-American Water Company, 2:14-cv-01374”;
  • A detailed statement of your objection(s), as well as the specific reasons, if any, for each objection, including any evidence and legal authority you want to bring to the Court’s attention;
  • A statement that you have reviewed the Settlement Class definition and have not Opted Out of the Settlement Class, and any other supporting papers, materials, or briefs you want the Court to consider when reviewing the objection, including information sufficient to demonstrate that you are in fact a Settlement Class Member; and
  • Your signature and date.

In addition, if you intend to appear at the final approval hearing (the “Fairness Hearing”), you must submit a written notice of your intent (see Question 18). You must file your objection and your written notice of intent to appear with the Court by mailing your objection to the address below, postmarked no later than December 8, 2017:

United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia
Clerk of the Court
Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse
300 Virginia Street East
Charleston, WV 25301

13. What is the difference between objecting to the Settlement and excluding myself?

Objecting is simply telling the Court that you do not like something about the Settlement or want it to say something different. You can object only if you do not exclude yourself from the Settlement. Excluding yourself is telling the Court that you do not want to be part of the Settlement, and you do not want to receive any Settlement benefits. If you exclude yourself, you will not receive any settlement benefits and you have no basis to object because the Settlement no longer affects you.

Hearing Information

14. Do I have a lawyer in the case?

The Court has appointed a number of lawyers to represent all Settlement Class Members as “Settlement Class Counsel.”  They include the lawyers who served as Class Counsel for the certified class in Good v. West Virginia-American Water Company, Inc., No. 2:14-cv- 01374:

Stuart Calwell
The Calwell Practice, LC
500 Randolph Street
Charleston, WV 25302

Van Bunch
Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman and Balint P.C.
2325 E. Camelback Rd. Suite 300
Phoenix, AZ 85016

Kevin Thompson
Thompson Barney
2030 Kanawha Boulevard East
Charleston, WV 25311

Class Counsel in Good v. West Virginia-American Water Company, Inc., No. 2:14-cv- 01374, are Lead Settlement Class Counsel in this Settlement. The West Virginia Mass Litigation Panel (“MLP”) appointed lawyers to be Lead Counsel in the proceedings before it in West Virginia state court:

Anthony J. Majestro
Powell & Majestro, PLLC
405 Capitol Street Suite P-1200
Charleston, WV 25301

Benjamin L. Bailey
Bailey Glasser LLP
209 Capitol Street
Charleston, WV 25301

Marvin W. Masters
The Master Law Firm L.C.
181 Summers Street
Charleston, WV 25301

These MLP Lead Counsel lawyers participated in the negotiation of the settlement as Settlement Class Counsel and fully join in recommending approval of the Settlement.

You will not be charged for contacting these lawyers.  If you want to be represented by your own lawyer, you may hire one at your own expense.

15. How will the lawyers be paid?

At the upcoming final fairness hearing on January 9, 2018 at 10 a.m., Settlement Class Counsel will ask the Court to reimburse them for (a) certain costs and expenses and (b) for attorneys’ fees based on their services in achieving and administering this settlement.  Attorneys’ fees will not exceed 25% of the total funds distributed from the $76 million contribution from American Water and of the $25 million contribution from Eastman.  The attorneys’ fee request will also include 25% of the amount needed to pay Class Members who submit a valid Individual Review Claim Form once the initial $101 million in funds are exhausted.  Attorneys representing Claimants in the Individual Review Option may earn up to 15% of the award as a contingent fee from a Claimant, provided that the net payment to the Claimant must be more than the applicable Simple Claim Form Amount.  Attorneys may not charge for processing Simple Claim Forms, except that attorneys representing individual Business Claimants with 2013 Annual Revenue in excess of $100,000 may earn up to 15% of the amount awarded for a Simple Claim if it was necessary to analyze the claim as an Individual Review Option claim to determine whether the claimant should file a Simple Claim or an Individual Review Option claim.

Settlement Class Counsel also will request awards be paid to the Class Representatives who worked with Settlement Class Counsel on behalf of the entire Class.  For the Settlement Class Representatives in the Good Action, Settlement Class Counsel will request an award of $15,000 each.  For the Class Representatives in the Second Consolidated Amended Class Action in the West Virginia State Court MLP action, Class Counsel will request an award of $10,000 each.

In its September 21, 2017 Order granting preliminary approval of the Amended Settlement Agreement, the Court indicated its intention to approve the requests for attorneys’ fees and incentive awards.

Any payment for attorneys’ fees and costs or expenses requires Court approval, and the Court may award less than the requested amount.  The attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses that the Court orders, plus the costs to provide notice and to administer the Settlement, will come out of the total Settlement Fund.

16. When and where will the Court decide whether to approve the Settlement?

The Court will hold the Fairness Hearing at 10:00 a.m. on January 9, 2018, at the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse, located at 300 Virginia Street, East, Charleston, WV 25301. The hearing may be moved to a different date or time without additional notice, so it is a good idea to check www.wvwaterclaims.com or call 1-855-829-8121. At this hearing, the Court will hear evidence about whether the Settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate. If there are objections, the Court will consider them and may listen to people who have asked to speak at the hearing. The Court will then decide whether to approve the Settlement. We do not know how long these decisions will take.

The Court will consider the request for attorneys’ fees, incentive awards and reasonable costs by Class Counsel (see Question 15) at the Fairness Hearing.

17. Do I have to attend the hearing?

No. Settlement Class Counsel will answer questions the Court may have. But you are welcome to attend at your own expense. If you timely file an objection, you do not have to come to Court to talk about it. As long as you mailed your written objection on time, the Court will consider it. You may also have your own lawyer attend at your expense, but it is not necessary.

18. May I speak at the hearing?

You may ask the Court for permission to speak at the Fairness Hearing. The Court will determine whether to grant you permission to speak. To do so, you must send a letter stating that it is your “Notice of Intention to Appear in Good v. West Virginia-American Water Company, No. 2:14-cv-01374.” Be sure to include your name, address, telephone number, and your signature. Your Notice of Intention to Appear must be postmarked no later than December 8, 2017, and sent to:

United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia
Clerk of the Court
Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse
300 Virginia Street, East,
Charleston, WV 25301

Settlement Benefits

19. What benefits can I get from the Settlement?

The parties have estimated the likely amount that certain class members will receive if they choose to ask for a Simple Claim payment at $550 for the household customer claim and $180 for each additional resident. However, the exact amount that any Class Member can receive through the Settlement depends on the specific nature of the claim that is made and on the total amount of the claims received by the Settlement Administrator. All claims submitted are subject to audit by the Settlement Administrator.

20. How do I get my Settlement benefits?

To get benefits, you will need to fill out and complete the appropriate claim form.  Claim forms are available here or by calling 1-855-829-8121.  You can file a claim online or by mail. The deadline to file a claim is February 21, 2018.

21. What am I giving up in exchange for the Settlement benefits?

If the Settlement becomes final, you will give up your right to sue American Water and Eastman and related parties for the claims being resolved by this Settlement unless you exclude yourself from the Settlement.

Section 9 of the Amended Settlement Agreement contains the complete text and details of what Class Members give up unless they exclude themselves from the Settlement, so please read it carefully.  The Amended Settlement Agreement is available at here.  If you have any questions about what this means you can talk to the law firms listed in Question 14 for free or you can talk to your own lawyer at your own expense.

22. Am I releasing any property damage or personal injury or wrongful death claims if I remain in the Settlement?

Yes. The Settlement does release any property damage, personal injury claims or wrongful death claims that you may have, now or in the future.  This means you cannot sue American Water or Eastman for any future personal injuries claimed to be related to the Freedom Chemical Spill or for any damage to your property claimed to be related to the Freedom Chemical Spill.

23. Who is included in the Settlement Class?

This Settlement Class includes residential households, businesses and workers (hourly wage earners)

Residential Households: any resident of a residence provided tap water service from West Virginia American’s Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant (“KVTP”) on January 9, 2014.

Businesses: A business that operated at a property location provided tap water service from West Virginia American’s KVTP on January 9, 2014.  Includes for-profit businesses, non-profit organizations and governmental entities.

Wage Earners: a person employed on January 9, 2014 at a Business that was shut down or partially shut down as a result of the spill and contamination AND who has documented lost hourly wages.

The Settlement does not include: (1) American Water and any affiliates of American Water and their officers, directors and employees; (2) Eastman and any affiliates of Eastman and their officers, directors, and employees; (3) Judicial officers assigned to this case and their immediate family members and associated court staff (other than court reporters) assigned to this case; (4) Settlement Class Counsel, and attorneys who have made an appearance for the Defendants in this case; and (5) The Settlement Administrator, Notice Administrator, the guardian ad litem and other consultants and associated staff working on claims administration; and (6) anyone who excludes themselves from the Class (see Question 28).

Claims

24. When can I file a claim?

You can file a claim now. The deadline to file a claim is February 21, 2018.

25. How do I file a claim?

You can file a claim on line by registering here to start.

You can also file a claim by mail. You may receive a Simple Claim Form in the mail, and you can also get a claim form to mail in (both Simple Claim Forms and Individual Review Claim Forms) by downloading a form from the website. Or you can call the Settlement Administrator at 1- 855-829-8121 and ask the Settlement Administrator to mail a form to you. There are separate forms for each payment option.

26. How will the Settlement benefits be distributed?

The Settlement Funds will be distributed according to the Settlement Fund Distribution Protocols document that is available here. The following is a summary of how the settlement funds will be distributed:

There are three mechanisms for determination of compensation and payment of eligible Settlement Class Members: (1) the Simple Claim Form Option providing set amount payments, (2) the Individual Review Option providing reimbursement of documented losses, and (3) the Check Distribution Process providing a set payment for residential customers who do not otherwise make a claim.

The Simple Claim Form Option is available for Settlement Class Members who submit a Simple Claim Form for a Residential Household Claim or a Business Claim. Class Members who submit Simple Claim Forms will receive payment based on the Simple Claim Form and will not be required to submit documentation of specific losses. Eastman funds and then the American Water initial $76 million contribution will be used to pay Class Members whose Simple Claim Forms are approved.

The Individual Review Option is available for Settlement Class Members who believe that their documented eligible losses exceed the amount of the Simple Claim Form payment. Individual review option Claimants will be required to submit reliable documentation to support their claimed losses and claimed losses that are not supported with such documentation will be denied. The Individual Review Option is available for Residential Claimants and Business Claimants (including governmental entities) that do not elect the Simple Claim Form Option. The Individual Review Option is also available for individuals who seek payment for medical expenses or personal injury or pregnancy claims or lost hourly wages. In the Summary Notice, these claims are described as “Documented Claims.”

Finally, after all Claim Forms are submitted and all Claimants are identified, the Settlement Administrator will identify any Residential Direct Customer Users who are on West Virginia American’s Customer List, who have confirmed addresses and who have not submitted either a Simple Claim Form or an Individual Review Option Claim Form. The Settlement Administrator will, subject to the guidance in the Settlement Fund Distribution Protocols, distribute checks to these residential direct customer users in an amount to be determined by the Settlement Fund Distribution Protocols, provided that there are sufficient funds available after paying all Simple Claim Form claims. If the claims exceed the amount available to pay simple claim payments or the amount available to pay individual review claims, respectively, the approved claims payments of that type will be reduced so that all valid claims of that type can be paid.

Benefits will not be distributed to Class Members until after the Court grants final approval to the Settlement and it becomes final after any appeals are resolved.  If the parties all agree and can demonstrate to the Court that any appeals do not affect payments to Class Members, the Court may decide to allow payments to some Class Members while the appeals are pending.

27. How much will my set Simple Claim Form residential household payment be?

The Simple Claim Form Option is estimated to pay $550 for the household including one person and $180 for each additional person in your household. For example, if you had five people in your household on January 9, 2014 you could get a payment of $1,270 ($550 + (4 x $180)).  A separate check will be issued to each person.  If you want to receive a simple claim payment you need to fill out and submit a Simple Residential Claim Form.

28. How much will my set simple business payment be?

The estimated amount of your set simple claim payment will depend on the category of business you owned on January 9, 2014 and the amount of revenue as outlined below:

Business was Shut Down** or Partially Shut Down during the Do Not Use Period
Annual Revenue*: Up to and including $1 million
Estimated Payment: $1,875 plus 4% of annual revenue

Annual Revenue*: Over $1 million
Estimated Payment: $41,875


Lodging***
Annual Revenue*: Up to and including $156,250
Estimated Payment*: $5,000

Annual Revenue*: Over $156,250 up to and including $2 million
Estimated Payment: 3.2% of annual revenue

Annual Revenue*: Over $2 million
Estimated Payment: $64,000


Other (Not Shut Down or partially shut down)
Annual Revenue*: Includes non-profit and governmental entities
Estimated Payment: $1,875

*Adjusted on annual sales for 2013 or Substitute Revenue Data for the Eligible Business Location.

**A regulation or government agency required that you shut down all or part of your business during the Do Not Use period (see Question 21).

***Lodging Businesses include businesses that provide traveler accommodation and qualify to be classified under the NAICS prefix “721” (but does not include recreational vehicle parks or campgrounds).

29. What documents can I provide to show “Substitute Revenue Data” for the Simple Business Claim Form?

To demonstrate 2013 annual earning through “Substitute Revenue Data”, you must provide reliable data from which annual 2013 revenue may be inferred consisting of either (i) data extrapolated (and if necessary and appropriate seasonally adjusted) from partial 2013 annual sales revenue; or (ii) 2014 annual sales revenue extrapolated using appropriate months subsequent to the time the Eligible Business Location was Shut Down or Partially Shut Down; or (iii) other probative information from which a reasonably reliable estimate of 2013 annual sales revenue may be derived; or (iv) 2015 annual sales revenue.

30. What is the “Do Not Use Period”?

The Do Not Use Period was the period of time when you were subject to the Do Not Use notice issued by West Virginia American that the tap water supplied from the KVTP should not be used other than for toilet flushing or fire protection. The Do Not Use Period differs based on the location of the Residence or Business but does not extend beyond January 18, 2014 for anyone in the Class.

31. Why do all of the settlement amounts say “up to”?

In class actions, only a portion of the eligible claimants ever make their claim. Drawing upon experiences in other Class Actions, assumptions have been made about the expected participation rates. If the number of people who make claims far exceeds those assumptions, then the amounts paid to each category of claimant may be reduced proportionately.

32. What type of Residential expenses can be reimbursed by the Settlement?

You can be reimbursed for reasonable documented costs related to:

  • Property Damage – Repair/Replacement Costs:  repair or replacement of any parts or other items associated with the residential water system that was due to the Freedom Chemical Spill. This includes hiring someone to clean and flush the water system as directed in the flushing guidelines provided by West Virginia American or as directed by any government office. You may also recover 50% of the cost of replacing an appliance including hot water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines, refrigerators, and humidifiers up to a maximum of $750 per appliance. You can also recover the full cost of repairing or replacing CPAPs or similar breathing devices. Time Period: repair/replacement must have occurred between January 9, 2014 and February 18, 2014 (unless you can show a good reason for delaying the repair/replacement).
  • Extra Expenses:  such as costs for bottled water or other alternative water supplies, paper plates, plastic ware, pre-prepared meals, sanitation supplies, restaurant expenses, water testing, alternative lodging and laundry expenses. Time Period: extra expenses must have occurred between January 9, 2014 and end of the Do Not Use Period for the Eligible Residential Location, unless you can show a good reason for continuing extra expenses. No extra expenses after February 1, 2014 will be eligible, except that documented bottled water or replacement water expenses are eligible if purchased through March 3, 2014.
  • Discarded Food:  food that you threw out as result of the Freedom Chemical Spill. Time Period: you must have purchased food on or before January 9, 2014 and discarded it during the Do Not Use Period for your Eligible Residential Location, unless you can show a good reason for discarding the food later. No discarded food costs after February 1, 2014 will be eligible.

33. What does reimbursement for Business Property Damage include?

If you had property damage as a result of the Freedom Chemical Spill you can get reimbursed for reasonable documented costs related to:

  • Repair/Replacement: Repair or replacement of any parts or other items associated with the Business water system that was due to the Freedom Chemical Spill. This includes hiring someone to clean and flush the water system as directed in the flushing guidelines provided by American Water and/or to meet any applicable health department or other regulatory requirements. The Business may recover 75% of the paid cost of replacing any affected appliance or equipment used to operate the Business.
    Time Period:  Repair/replacement must have occurred between January 9, 2014 and February 18, 2014, unless the Business can show a good reason for delaying such repair/replacement.
  • Lost Profits or Lost Revenues: Businesses with property damage may recover lost profits. Governmental entities may also recover for lost revenues.
    Time Periods:  Lost profits/revenues will be limited to: (a) the period January 9, 2014 through March 31, 2014 for Businesses that were Shut Down; (b) the period January 9, 2014 through March 31, 2014 for Businesses that were Partially Shut Down with respect to Lost Profits attributable to the portion of the Business that was Partially Shut Down; (c) the period January 9, 2014 through February 24, 2014 for all other Businesses.  Lost profits/revenues for a time period beyond mandatory shutdown and for Businesses not subject to mandatory shutdown will be determined on a case by case basis as discussed in more detail in the Distribution Protocols.
  • Lost Inventory: If you had to stop operations as a result of a health department or other regulatory direction you may receive the value of inventory that had to be destroyed or discarded. This covers inventory that was not usable as a result of the business closure.
    Time Period: Lost Inventory must have been on hand during the Do Not Use Period and must have been discarded or destroyed within one week of the Business resuming operations, unless the Business can demonstrate a specific good reason for delayed loss or destruction of such inventory.
  • Extra Expenses: A Business or governmental entity may recover costs paid for the Property Damage along with the reasonable and actual cost paid to support additional losses, such as bottled water or other substitute water supplies or alternative cleaning supplies during the Do Not Use Period.
    Time Period: Extra expenses must have occurred during the Do Not Use Period (unless the Business can demonstrate a specific good reason for delayed extra expenses). Documented bottled water or other replacement water bought through March 3, 2014 is eligible for recovery.  No payment may be made for extra expenses incurred after March 3, 2014.

34. What is an eligible business “Shut Down”?

“Shut Down” means that the Business was (i) conducted at a location where the Business making the Business Claim possessed a West Virginia Business Registration Certificate for the location that is the subject of the Business Claim and (ii) with respect to that location, was subject to a regulation requiring it to cease operations, or a direct order or instruction from a regulatory agency to cease the operations regulated by that regulatory agency, during the Do Not Use Period as a result of the Freedom Chemical Spill. A separate Business that operates at the same location as another Business and meets the definition of Shut Down is considered to have been Shut Down even if other separate Businesses operating in the same location were not Shut Down; however, an individual who leases space from a Business that was Shut Down but who does not have any ownership interest in the Business that was Shut Down does not meet the definition of Shut Down under the Amended Settlement Agreement. A voluntary decision to cease or reduce operations does not meet the definition of “Shut Down” under this Settlement.

“Partially Shut Down” or “Partial Shut Down” means a Business that was Shut Down only with respect to certain activities conducted by the Business while other business activities continued (e.g., food service operations within a larger retail store).

35. What type of medical expenses or personal injury claims can be recovered under the Settlement?

The Settlement covers documented medical expenses for people who were treated for an injury/illness or death that was related to or caused by the exposure to tap water or the delay in water service that occurred during the Freedom Chemical Spill. The Distribution Protocols, available  here or by calling 1-855-829-8121, provide additional details.  Please see the Detailed Notice for additional details about the medical benefits available in this Settlement.

Note: If any other entity (such as Medicare, Medicaid, a hospital, a health insurance company, or governmental entity) paid any medical expenses resulting from the illness or injury, they may have a medical cost repayment claim or lien against you. If this is the case, your Settlement payment may be delayed, reduced, or paid to the other entity in whole or in part unless other arrangements can be made. See Question 51 for more information.

36. How do I get a Pregnancy Claim Payment?

The Settlement provides benefits to women who were pregnant at the time of the Freedom Chemical Spill. If a pregnant woman has not made a claim for medical expenses or personal injury, she may complete an Individual Review Form for Pregnancy Claims and recover an estimated set payment of $1,500. The Distribution Protocols, available here or by calling 1-855-829-8121, provide additional details.

37. How do I get a Wage Earner payment?

You can recover lost wages if you were an hourly worker on January 9, 2014 and were prevented from working because your place of employment was Shut Down or Partially Shut Down as a result of the Incident.  Salaried workers are not eligible for a payment from the Settlement.  You can only recover lost wages if you were scheduled to work during the period your place of employment was Shut Down or Partially Shut Down and you did not otherwise make up the lost wages.  Restaurant workers and other workers who are paid tips will be reimbursed at no less than minimum wage.  Time Period:  You can only recover wages that were lost during the period of Shut Down or Partial Shut Down for the Eligible Business Location.

You will need to fill out and submit an Individual Review Claim Form for Wage Earners and provide appropriate documentation to request a payment from the Settlement.  Your recovery may be reduced if the total claims payable to wage earners exceed $4 million, which is the amount allowed in the Settlement for payment of wage earner claims.

38. How will my claim be determined?

The Court has appointed a Settlement Administrator who is responsible for reviewing forms and determining whether you qualify for payment, and, if so, the amount of the payment.  The Settlement Administrator is required to apply the Distribution Protocols to determine whether you are eligible and the amount of the payment.

39. When can I expect to receive my payment?

The Settlement Administrator cannot distribute payments until the Court grants final approval and any appeals have been resolved.

40. How many types of claims can I file?

You may file multiple claims if you meet the eligibility criteria for each claim type.  Residential claimants also may file Medical or Pregnancy and/or Wage Earner Claims if they qualify for those claims.  Residential claimants also may file a Business Claim for a separate Eligible Business Location, but if your business and home are located at the same address, you may file either a Residential Claim or a Business Claim, but not both.  There are two types of forms for residential and business claims—a Simple Claim option and an Individual Review option.  You must choose the option you want.  You cannot file both a simple claim form and an Individual Review claim form for the same type of claim.

41. Is it better if I file a Simple Claim Form?

That depends.  You should file a Residential Household Individual Review Claim Form or Business Individual Review Claim Form if the recoverable damages you can prove you suffered are higher than the amount you can receive through filing a Simple Claim Form for a set payment.  You can determine the estimated amount you will receive for the set simple claim payment (see Questions 27 and 28 above).  If the Settlement Administrator determines that your recoverable damages are lower than the amount you can receive through filing a Simple Claim Form, you will be contacted to supplement your claim and re-submit your Residential Household Individual Review Claim Form.  If you do not respond to the request, you will only be eligible to get a simple claim payment.  If you have questions on which claim form you should file, contact the Settlement Administrator for assistance by calling 1- 855-829-8121 or use our Contact form.

42. Can more than one person in a household file a Residential Claim?

There can be only one Residential claim per Household.  This means that there can be only one claim per address.  If more than one person in the Household submits a Residential claim, the Settlement Administrator will have to determine which claim has priority.

43. How will the Residential payment be distributed?

The Residential payment is determined based on the number of people in the Household. For the Simple Claim Form Payments, the Settlement Administrator will issue separate payments for each member of the Household. For Individual Review Option residential claims, the Settlement Administrator may issue payment to the primary claimant or the members of the Household can determine how to split up the payment.  If there is a dispute, the Settlement Administrator has the authority to determine how to split up the payment.

44. What if I cannot locate someone I lived with at the time of the Incident?

If you cannot locate a roommate or someone else you lived with, then you should notify the Settlement Administrator.  The settlement payment for the Household may be reduced by the amount that would be allocated to that individual. In general, the Settlement Administrator will not issue a payment for someone who cannot be located.

45. What do I need to file a claim?

You will need to submit a claim form and, in some instances, documents to support your claim.  The information that you will need for each type of claim is available here.

46. What types of documents should I submit with my Individual Review claim?

Documents are necessary to show whether you are eligible for a payment and the appropriate amount of the payment.  For example, if you submit a claim that you lost wages because you could not work at an hourly wage job because your employer was Shut Down, then you must submit documentation to show the amount of wages lost and that you worked at a place that was Shut Down.  If you make a claim for reimbursement for repair or replacement of household appliances you will have to submit documentation to show what was repaired or replaced and the amount you spent.  If you are filing a Medical claim, you will have to submit certain medical records and in some cases Doctor’s or expert’s statements.

The Settlement Administrator is responsible for determining if documents are valid, reliable and truthful.  Documents that the Settlement Administrator will accept include certified copies of medical records, original invoices, sales receipts, credit card bills or check stubs, documents submitted to a government entity, such as a tax return and sworn statements (like a sworn statement from your employer that you were scheduled to work during the period that your employer was Shut Down).  The Settlement Administrator will not accept documents that have been altered, are illegible are inconsistent or otherwise unreliable.  The Settlement Administrator may request additional information to support your claim.

47. Will my personal information be kept confidential?

Yes.  All information provided will only be used to administer the Settlement.  The Settlement Administrator will adopt rules and procedures to protect the privacy and personal information of all claimants, and your personal information will not be disclosed to anyone other than the Settlement and Notice Administrators and their contractors, Class Counsel, the Defendants and their counsel and/or insurers.

Payments

48. If I represent a Governmental Entity, how do I get a payment?

Governmental entities have two claiming options:

  • Simple Claim Form:  Governmental entities may use the simple claim form for businesses to obtain the set payment amount applicable to businesses that were not shut down.
  • Individual Review Option:  If the governmental entity wants to receive payment for specific property damage, extra expenses or lost revenues, the governmental entity must submit the Governmental Entity Individual Review Option Claim Form and supply supporting documentation.

See Question 28 for the estimated payment amount.

49. What if my claim is denied or I am not satisfied with my payment?

The Settlement provides a process to resolve disagreements about how much money you should get.  You will get further details in the letter you receive after your claim has been processed.  If your claim is denied, or if you are not satisfied with the amount of your payment, you may file an appeal for a second review.  If you are not satisfied with the amount of your payment after the second review, you may appeal that decision to the Appeal Adjudicator.  The decision of the Appeal Adjudicator is final.  The Appeal process is described more fully in the Amended Settlement Agreement, which is available here.

50. If I receive a payment, will it be taxable?

Receiving Settlement benefits might have tax consequences for you.  You should consult your own tax advisor at your own expense to determine any federal, state, local or foreign tax consequences that could result from receiving Settlement benefits.

51. If the Settlement Administrator approves a payment for my Medical Claim, will I receive the full amount of my claim?

If a healthcare insurer/payor (such as Medicare, any Medicare Advantage Organization, Medicaid, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and/or private health insurer) paid for medical items, services, and/or prescription drugs related to your Medical Claim, and if your Medical Claim is approved, then the healthcare insurer/payor may be able to claim a medical lien (that is, the right to be reimbursed for those payments) out of your award.  The Settlement Administrator may be required to hold back your award in order to pay any of these liens and ensure that they are resolved.  Any funds that are held back but are not needed to resolve liens will be paid to you later.  The Settlement Administrator or another professional appointed by the Court will work on your behalf to resolve any such lien on terms favorable to you.