New Orleans: “Those left out of class action lead poisoning lawsuit speak up”

by Walter Olson on February 23, 2014

Following news of a $67 million settlement over lead exposure in New Orleans public housing, various residents feel unfairly left out. Lawyers in charge explain that the case covers only a set class of plaintiffs: to qualify for funds, claimants must (quoting the broadcast account) have lived in New Orleans public housing before Feb. 2001, have been born before late 1987, and be able to show medical records indicating lead poisoning before the age of six. [WDSU; auto-plays video including starter ad with no halt button]

Unfortunately, the televised report makes it very hard to evaluate the strength of the protesters’ complaints, since it does not sort out such questions as: are they saying that their personal situations do qualify for compensation under the settlement’s terms, but that they missed out by not being notified in time? Or are they claiming instead that the settlement should have been negotiated to compensate a more broadly defined class, such as persons whose claims are more recent? If the latter, as one passage in the report suggests, their right to seek compensation by way of a separate suit may not actually have been extinguished. Some related minutes here.

{ 4 comments }

1 Ted 02.23.14 at 1:53 pm

What low-income person saves 20-year-old medical records? Wouldn’t surprise me if actual payout is a tiny fraction of what the lawyers will be asking for.

2 Walter Olson 02.23.14 at 2:05 pm

I don’t know about that, Ted. The plaintiff’s lawyer says New Orleans keeps a municipal registry of lead poisoning case reports, and a diagnosis of poisoning would also generate records in clinic or medical-office files that a family could ask for even if it did not hold on to the paperwork. (Admittedly, Katrina might have posed unique challenges to the otherwise presumed survival of most contemporary American medical-office records.)

3 Ted 02.23.14 at 2:10 pm

The other fishy thing is that settlement only applies to people with a Pre-1993 diagnosis. What’s the point of opening it up to people who lived in housing from 1993 to 2001 other than to extinguish their claims?

4 Bumper 02.23.14 at 2:40 pm

According to some reports (not verified) that many of the new victims were not even born prior to the inclusive dates of the lawsuit. In watching the video I was reminded of when a city bus with four people on board is involved in an accident and 15 passenger lawsuits are filed for injuries from the accident. Reducing the complaint to “What, there was free money and I didn’t get any? The outrage!”

I believe that the original suit was filed in the late 1990s which would have given the plaintiff’s five or six years to get the records prior to Katrina.

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