Impacted families fill courtroom amid government’s push to consolidate Red Hill lawsuits
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The U.S. government is asking a federal judge to consolidate a flurry of cases filed by families impacted by the Red Hill tainted water crisis.
On Thursday, the federal courthouse was packed with Red Hill families and attorneys for both sides.
The plaintiffs say they arenʻt opposed to consolidating the cases, but want their first group of cases to move to trial.
That’s scheduled for March 2024.
Some Red Hill families wore yellow to federal court to show hope after getting sick from drinking fuel-tainted water about a year and a half ago.
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They’re suing the U.S. government for allegedly failing to warn them about the fuel leaks from the Navy’s Red Hill underground fuel facility in 2021.
It contaminated Pearl Harbor’s drinking water system serving 93,000 military and civilian water users and sickened thousands of people. Some say they are still battling lingering health impacts today.
“It was just amazing to be here today. It’s really surreal just to be here in person and know that this is the first step of accountability,” said plaintiff Lacey Quintero.
There are at least three groups of law firms suing the U.S. government.
The lawsuit from Just Well Law out of Texas has 113 plaintiffs, has filed more than 450 civil claims and attorneys say more lawsuits are coming.
“There are six bellwether families and they are ready for trial. It’s not complicated. The government contaminated the water with jet fuel laced with anti-freeze and a whole bunch of other things,” said attorney Kristina Baehr.
Attorneys for the government say the goal is to streamline this case because they have common issues.
“The May and November spills were the result of negligence at the U.S. facility,” said Eric Ray, attorney for the U.S. government.
Most of the Red Hill families who attended the court hearing still live in Hawaii.
But Army Maj. Amanda Feindt flew in from Colorado.
“I think it solidified what we already knew. I think that we as folks who drank that water were subjected to all sorts of contamination. I think that everything we are feeling as a community is the result of that,’ she said.
“It was great to know that the judge actually heard us. They heard the government’s side and working together to come up with a solution to move our case forward,” said plaintiff Amanda Zawieruszynski.
U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Kenneth Mansfield is expected to issue a decision at a later date. In court on Thursday, he thanked those who attended.
“You are always welcomed. We rarely get a courtroom this full,” said Mansfield.
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