Federal judge approves $42.6 million settlement in FEMA trailer case

A FEMA trailer park in St. Bernard Parish, La. A FEMA trailer park in St. Bernard Parish, La. Gerald Herbert/AP

A federal judge has approved a $42.6 million settlement in a class action lawsuit against companies that provided trailers to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to house victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

The Associated Press reported that U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt ruled from the bench on an agreement that would resolve the claims on cases involving the formaldehyde fumes in trailers that FEMA offered people displaced by the storms.

AP said the 55,000 residents in the affected states, including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas, would be eligible for shares of $37.5 million from the manufacturers of the trailers. Additionally, the residents would be eligible for a separate, $5.1 million settlement with the contractors that installed and maintained the units.

According to a 2008 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the formaldehyde levels in many of the trailers were “higher than typical U.S. indoor levels.” Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and has been linked to numerous health problems, including breathing difficulties.

Some of the plaintiffs told AP they were glad the case was over, but others said the settlement seemed unfair given the human costs of the incident. Lydia Greenlees’ mother lived in a FEMA trailer for two years and died of leukemia in 2008.

“I am saddened about the settlement in that I feel like it makes a mockery of my mother’s life,” Greenlees told the AP. “I don’t want anyone to think for one second that I view this settlement as a fair trade for my mother’s life.”

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