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Thursday, June 27, 2024
Government says Red Hill plaintiffs are asking for too much in damages
By Selected News Articles @ 3:01 PM :: 541 Views :: Honolulu County, Environment, Military

Government says Red Hill plaintiffs are asking for too much in damages

by Kim Jarrett, The Center Square, June 27, 2024

(The Center Square) - U.S. attorneys said the United States is responsible for the November 2021 spill at Hawaii's Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, but the plaintiff's damage figure is too high, according to documents filed in a civil case this week.

Seventeen plaintiffs are asking for $7 million for problems they say were caused directly by the fuel leak, including headaches, stomach issues, dizziness, seizures, memory loss and skin rashes.

"The United States recognizes that the Bellwether Plaintiffs experienced stress, anxiety, and worry in the days after they learned about the November 2021 fuel spill, and these harms entitle them to compensatory damages," the government attorneys said in their closing arguments brief.

"But the November 2021 spill did not cause many of the other physical and psychological injuries the Bellwethers Plaintiffs claim, including those that pre-dated the spill."

Media reports and warnings limited the exposure to the fuel for some plaintiffs, the government said.

"This short duration and the speed at which JP-5 exits the body (1-2.5 days) limits the duration of physical symptoms possibly caused by the spill," the attorneys said in their brief.

The approach by the plaintiffs "inflates damage calculations," the government said.

"In contrast, the United States details herein a damages framework that better reflects the injuries caused by the November 2021 spill, the differences amongst the Bellwether Plaintiffs, the alternative causes of their alleged physical and psychological symptoms, and awards in comparable cases," government attorneys said in the brief. "The United States’ approach also more readily can be applied to resolve the thousands of additional Plaintiffs’ cases in this docket, as compared to Plaintiffs’ approach that fails to provide any discernible or objective method for differentiating among the variously situated Plaintiffs."

The plaintiffs have until July 12 to respond to the government's brief.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, the U.S. District Court of Hawaii issued a stay in six other Red Hill lawsuits until this one is resolved.

The six lawsuits involved in the court-ordered stay requested by the government involve 2,375 people, according to documents filed in court.

"In the interest of judicial economy and in recognition that the Court’s findings in the Feindt Trial may provide insight and further clarity on certain facts and issues in dispute across the six cases, it would be prudent to stay depositions in these six matters pending the verdict in the Feindt trial," the court said. "All depositions shall be stayed in these matters until September 1, 2024."

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