Nearly two weeks after a train derailed carrying hazardous materials, East Palestine, Ohio residents are grappling with the consequences of the incident. While facing health concerns and a lack of resources, residents were also forced to relocate in the aftermath of the train crash.
Norfolk Southern, the company whose train crashed, has offered compensation to those who were forced to relocate - but one lawyer warned residents that the offer could come with a catch.
"We want to get out the word to folks. Do not, if you can afford it, again, emphasizing if you can afford it, do not take this upfront money. But if you do, be aware that these folks might argue later that this is payment in full," Lipson O’Shea Legal Group principal and owner Michael O’Shea said on "Cavuto: Coast to Coast" Wednesday.
O'Shea explained two types of fees Norfolk Southern is offering for those affected by the train crash. The first is a reimbursement fee to residents within a one-mile radius of the crash site for dislocation costs, covering hotels and other necessities needed following the evacuation. The second is an inconvenience fee.
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O'Shea, a lawyer representing several East Palestine families, encouraged those who can afford it to reject both compensation offers.
"We're suggesting to folks that can afford it, and again, we recognize that some cannot, that they don't accept either of those two fees, because it might be argued later is a settlement of any claim that they have past, present or future against the railroad for what they did here."
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O'Shea shared another rail incident from 2005 where residents were offered "dangle money" or "trickle money." Later, the company argued residents who took the money had settled their claims.
"If somebody backs into your car and they get out and say I'm sorry and they give you a $100 cash, you take it, put it in your pocket," O'Shea posited. "Then you go back to the repair shop and the repair shop guys, you know, it's going to be $800 to fix the car. And you go back to that person that gave you that 100 bucks, they're going to say no court in satisfaction. I gave you a hundred bucks, you accepted it. You put it in your pocket. You can't come after me for the other, let's say in this in that example, $700."
O'Shea said Norfolk Southern told him they were going to be transparent that the fees are not considered payment in full, nor would they compromise any claims. O'Shea's "spidey sense" started tingling, though, when the company, according to the lawyer, refused to sign an agreement that "ratifies" what was said about the fees.
O'Shea noted that his "big concern" is helping the residents in Ohio who have been affected by the derailment and continue to suffer due to toxic chemicals now swarming the local environment. While residents have been told by the Environmental Protection Agency and other officials on the scene that it is safe to return home, many have reported ongoing health concerns to people and animals alike.
"Optics can be very deceiving when it comes to toxic chemicals and stuff like that," O'Shea said, noting some of the suspected chemicals present after the crash could have a longer latency period.
The lawyer described the scene in East Palestine in the aftermath of the crash "like a contagion movie where you couldn't get into certain areas of downtown."
Apart from health concerns, O'Shea explained how he was focused on helping people with other negative consequences of the incident, including property loss.
"So those people, you know, regardless of the bodily injury manifestations, which we think will pop up in the years to come, one of the more immediate damages to these folks is their livelihood, their ability to live like they were able to live before the accident."
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