Few chemical spill claims so far in Freedom bankruptcy

LAWRENCE PIERCE | Gazette file photo
The Freedom Industries tank farm on the Elk River, one day after the Jan. 9 chemical spill that tainted the water for about 300,000 West Virginians.

A court-appointed claims agent is concerned that few residents affected by the January Elk River chemical spill have come forward so far to file financial claims against Freedom Industries in the company’s bankruptcy proceeding.

James W. Lane Jr., a local lawyer hired by the court to keep track of the claims, has asked U.S. Bankrtupcy Judge Ronald Pearson for approval to publish additional newspaper notices and to run radio announcements to explain how to file a claim and to warn of the Aug. 1 legal deadline for doing so.

“Reports have indicated that there are 300,000 persons who potentially have alleged claims against Freedom Industries as a result of the chemical spill,” Lane said in a legal motion filed late last week. “As of 12:00 noon, July 3, 2014, only seventy (70) claims have been filed with the court that relate to the chemical spill.”

In bankruptcy court, a “claim” is a right to payment, in this case from Freedom Industries, for any reason. Technically, residents and businesses who believe they are owed some payment by Freedom will be filing what are known a “proofs of claim” in the bankruptcy case. The court will eventually decide which proofs of claim are legitimate, and later whatever funds are left in Freedom’s coffers will be distributed amount the claimants.

Proofs of claim can be filed online at the court’s website, http://www.wvsb.uscourts.gov/. The claims agent and his staff can be contacted by calling toll-free at 1-866-245-0312. The claims agent can also be contacted by e-mail at claimagent@elkriverwvspill.com.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.

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