Lawsuits Piling Up After Apex Chemical Fire
Posted October 11, 2006 8:05 a.m. EDT
Updated December 11, 2006 3:59 p.m. EST
APEX, N.C. — Less than a week after a hazardous waste site caught fire and prompted the evacuation of thousands of residents, seven lawsuits have already been filed against the company that operates the site.
National attorneys with chemical explosion experience are teaming up with local lawyers with the idea of bringing a class-action suit against Environmental Quality Industrial Services. A judge would have to approve consolidating any suits into a class action.
"It has nothing to do about making a quick buck," Apex lawyer Jesse Shapiro said.
Shapiro, who filed one of five lawsuits now pending while the EQ site was still ablaze last week, said he only wants to find the truth.
"It's important because we need to begin an investigation immediately, and that's how the process starts," he said. "We want to find out what happened."
Shapiro has teamed with The Orlando Law Firm in Decatur, Ga., and Bellovin & Karnas out of Tucson, Ariz.
Advertisements already are appearing in area newspapers, bearing banners like "Were you exposed to toxic chlorine?" or "Were you evacuated?"
Lawyers also have scheduled public meetings and have set up Web sites for potential clients.
Some lawsuits allege EQ failed to maintain the plant and take adequate safety measures. They claim residents could be at higher risk of medical problems.
At least one suit alleges a stigma is now placed on homes close to the EQ plant, meaning their property values will go down.
Resident Nathan Bullock said he filed suit to make it hard on EQ so it wouldn't rebuild on the site. Company officials have send they intend to continue doing business in Apex.
"We don't believe we need EQ's money," said Bullock, who has lived in Apex for 15 years and now worries about the impact of national coverage of the chemical fire.
"I wonder how many people moving to the Raleigh area choose not to look in Apex because of the news we've had," he said.
But some Apex homeowners said the lawyers and their clients are only interested in getting money from EQ.
"I think there are a lot of people (who), if you can get free money, they'll go ahead and get free money. This might be a good of excuse for a lot of people," said Tim Oke, whose family stayed at a hotel during the evacuation.
"We kind of had fun," Oke said.
An EQ spokeswoman said the company doesn't comment on pending litigation. The company already has set up a claims hotline to reimburse Apex residents who can document expenses incurred because of the evacuation.