Reimbursement for East Palestine evacuation could hinder future legal claims

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — Families returning to East Palestine following a fiery train derailment tell News 5 they’re worried about the long-term effects the crash and release of hazardous materials will have on their property and their health.

Norfolk Southern is offering an “inconvenience fee” to those who left town during a mandatory evacuation, but some attorneys are wary of how the reimbursement could affect future claims.

“I’ve never been in a situation before where someone who’s potentially going to pay out big money is paying out small money at the front end of a case. And to use a baseball analogy—before the players are even out of the dugout,” said Michael O’Shea, an attorney with Lipson O’Shea Legal Group.

So far, the law firm has met with 20-30 prospective clients who live or work near the derailment site. O’Shea expects more to reach out as concerns mount over the exposure to hazardous material.

“I’ve been holding myself together, but it’s really hitting me. I’m scared to death of what I’ve breathed,” said Ted Murphy in a phone call Friday.

Wednesday, Murphy walked News 5 through his home shortly after evacuation orders were lifted. He elected not to sleep there that night. The house sits 500 feet from where a Norfolk Southern train derailed Feb. 3.

READ MORE: ‘It’s safe:’ residents of East Palestine allowed to return home

Ten of the train’s 50 cars contained a toxic, highly flammable material called vinyl chloride. Monday, crews slowly burned the chemical from five cars to prevent a bigger disaster. The state required everyone to leave town until the air quality reached a safe level.

READ MORE: Crews perform controlled chemical release at derailment site

Norfolk Southern is asking residents to fill out an itemized claim worksheet for the “inconvenience fee“,

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