Four Charleston lawyers have been hired by a Tennessee law firm to litigate a class-action lawsuit for at least 35,000 Chattanooga residents who lost water after a pipe burst there earlier this month.
The attorneys involved in the Chattanooga case were brought on for their work on the class-action lawsuit against West Virginia American Water and Eastman Chemical Co. after the 2014 Elk River chemical spill that affected the drinking water for more than 300,000 water customers.
Attorneys Dante diTrapano, Stuart Calwell and Alex McLaughlin, all with Calwell Luce diTrapano, and Charleston lawyer Rod Jackson, are part of the team representing plaintiffs in the case filed in Hamilton County, Tennesee, Circuit Court. They join Lee Davis, of Davis & Hoss in Chattanooga, and Van Bunch, of Bonnett Fairbourn Friedman & Balint PC, in Phoenix, Arizona.
The water customers are suing American Water Works Company, American Water Works Service company, and Tennessee American Water. American Water Works also is the parent company of West Virginia American Water.
“It is an honor for our firm to represent the people of Tennessee in this case. Public utilities must be held accountable when they fail in their monopolistic obligations to customers,” diTrapano said. “Our experience litigating and the settlement achieved in the Good v. WVAW case prove that.”
In the Chattanooga lawsuit, styled Bruce v. American Water Works, the plaintiffs say at least 35,000 Chatanooga residents lost water due to a foreseeable failure in a water distribution pipe on Sept. 12.
The Times Free Press, in Chattanooga, reported that a water main break occurred 20 feet from where water crews were working on a planned maintenance project.
Attorneys representing the Chattanooga residents claim businesses and residents lost money due to the water company’s negligence and the subsequent loss in water service, and they are seeking damages.
In the West Virginia case, lawyers for residents and businesses had alleged that West Virginia American Water did not adequately prepare for or respond to the Jan. 9, 2014, spill that poured the chemical MCHM into the Elk River, according to a previous Gazette-Mail news report. The spill took place just upstream from the company’s Elk River regional drinking water intake.
Plaintiffs in the West Virginia lawsuit also claimed MCHM-maker Eastman did not properly warn Freedom Industries of the dangers of its chemical or take any action when Eastman officials learned that the Freedom facility was in disrepair, according to the Gazette-Mail report.
The West Virginia case resolved with a $151 million settlement.