3 servicemembers launch legal action against U.S. government for Red Hill fuel spills

Three active-duty service members have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government after allegedly getting sick from contaminated water.
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 6:30 AM HST|Updated: Mar. 28, 2023 at 5:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a new development of the Red Hill water crisis, three active-duty service members have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government after allegedly getting sick from contaminated water.

This comes as more than 100 U.S. military family members and civilians have pending federal-court claims against the government.

Lawyers say this lawsuit is significant because under a legal doctrine, service members typically can’t bring line-of-duty injury claims against the government.

However, their law firms argue that the doctrine doesn’t apply in this case.

“These service members were not in the line of duty when they were naked in their shower and being poisoned by the Navy,” said Kristina Baehr, attorney for the three service members,” said attorney Kristina Baehr.

The service members all complain of adverse health effects from ingesting the fuel-tainted water.

Navy Ensign Koda Freeman claimed his wife had a sudden resurgence of seizures and he faced “targeted retaliation” on the job.

Freeman has served in the military for 12 years. He and his family were living at Aliamanu Military Reservation for just half a year when the Navy’s Red Hill facility leaked fuel into the drinking water.

“It’s been difficult for a lot of us just for the simple fact that we’ve been at home and have watched our families decline in health,” said Freeman.

Freeman, an electronics material officer, is speaking publicly for the first time about the Red Hill tainted water crisis for ‘accountability.’

“The government had the opportunity to speak out and to say hey there is something wrong with the water, don’t drink the water, but they didn’t take that opportunity,” he said.

Army Maj. Amanda Feindt said her whole family got violently ill while living in their Ford Island home.

“I feel at this point, we too have been left with no other choice than to do this. We equally as service members have been impacted in the same way that our families did,” said Feindt.

Army Colonel Jessica Whaley — who is also a medical professional — said she was reportedly taken to the emergency room for quote “severe toxic exposure symptoms.” She said her family experienced exposure symptoms as well.

SPECIAL SECTION: Navy Water Crisis

We’re told the service members filed a pre-litigation claim on Monday and will file a federal lawsuit in Honolulu soon.

Lawyers say affected families reported toxic exposure symptoms including seizures, gastrointestinal disorders, neurological issues, burns, rashes, lesions, thyroid abnormalities, migraines, neurobehavioral challenges and other maladies.

The Navy says it does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit with more than 100 civilian plaintiffs is still moving ahead with trial set for next year. It claims that the Navy failed to warn families about the tainted water.

In court documents, the government tried to dismiss many of those claims.

“58 of the 113 Plaintiffs’ medical negligence claims should be dismissed for failure to state a claim because the Second Amended Complaint lacks sufficient factual allegations that these Plaintiffs were negligently treated or denied medical treatment by U.S. medical personnel,” it said.