Red Hill Petroleum Leak: What Are My Rights?

This video features Wayne D. Parsons, a Medical Malpractice attorney based in Hawaii.

Oahu Injury Lawyer Files Personal Injury, Class Action Claims

Video Transcript:

Wayne Parsons: 

It's very important when you deal with these toxic exposures that these things can develop over time, so what's happening right now, it may be worse three or four months from now as the consequences of these chemicals in our body, in their bodies manifest themselves with other conditions.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Where do things stand right now with the navy jet fuel storage tanks on Red Hill? How is the spill affecting the people of Hawaii and what happens next? We're gonna find out the answers to those questions and a lot more right now because that's what we're going to Ask the Lawyer on this episode. My guest is Hawaii attorney, Wayne Parsons. I wanna remind you right off the top, if you wanna talk to Wayne, ask questions of your own, just go to askthelawyers.com. There's a button up at the top that says, Ask a Lawyer. You can click on that, or of course, you can simply call the phone number that you'll see on the screen during our conversation. Wayne, it's good to see you again. Thank you for making some time.

Wayne Parsons: 

Good to be here.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So let's just start with a little bit of background. I know most people in your area are familiar with the story, but fill us in. What's going on with the Red Hill Navy facility? Where is it located? What's the problem? Tell us about that a little bit?

Wayne Parsons: 

Well, we call it the Red Hill matter because it's in Red Hill in Honolulu, and it's the community surrounding that. There is a great deal of controversy going on about the pollution, the poisoning of the water, our aquifer, which is what supplies water to all the people out by the airport all the way to Hawaii Kai, including Waikiki. And so there's lots of controversy about exactly what the scope of that pollution and poisoning is, and it's not just into the aquifer or into the water, but leaking out into the soil. That is a very controversial area, and there's a lot of energy and debate going on between our local board of water supply and their customer, the Navy. The Navy provides water to its military housing and to their military bases, and so they are a utility under the control of our Board of Water Supply, a huge controversy there, many different kinds of statements being made, it's gonna sort itself out. We are not directly involved in that engineering and science investigation, but we are very interested in it. And of course, our clients turn on the water in their faucets and there's petroleum poisoning in the water, so we are the recipients of all of these problems.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So just to back up just a little bit. So these are as the giant fuel storage tanks that whether there was a spill or a leak or whatever, theoretically, the water has been contaminated because of what's stored in these tanks, correct?

Wayne Parsons: 

That's correct. They are huge fuel storage tanks that have been there since World War II, they're buried underground, and Hawaii draws its water out of an aquifer that over 10,000 years filled up with very pure water suitable for drinking, and those fuel tanks and the piping systems around them have leaked. And the contamination has gotten into the aquifer, we know that because the water drawn out of the aquifer by the Navy has gone to residential housing where people could smell it and people could see it, and that's all been acknowledged it has happened. And now we're dealing with the consequences to those people who live in those houses that are affected.

Rob Rosenthal: 

How many houses are we talking about? What sort of a size of area that's affected are we talking about?

Wayne Parsons: 

Yeah. That is still being defined because testing has not been done everywhere, but we're starting with a housing project called Kapilina, which is a military privatized family housing project that has both military families in it and some civilian families in it. And that's 1450 homes, if you say, somewhere between two and six people per home, that adds up to a lot of people, but there are many other similar projects out there, and I have clients, our group has clients from Hickam Communities, the Earhart community and other communities around there that have also been affected. And we expect this to expand out into those other communities. We're very interested in talking to people in those other communities in the area who are living in military housing, because they're the ones who have been getting the water. And so we're starting with Kapilina, but we're very interested in getting clients from the other communities also.

Rob Rosenthal: 

How bad is it? How bad is the water? Tell me what you're hearing from your clients as far as what the water is like in these homes.

Wayne Parsons: 

Well, people have been able to smell petroleum in the water, in some of the water, people who have consumed the water, we consume a gallon or two of water every day by drinking, we get 10-20 gallons of water in our bathing. And families with small children have to bathe those kids all the time, so we're seeing skin irritations, we're seeing things that we would call neurological issues where a person's fatigued or not feeling well, they may have headaches, and these things all came on after the exposure, after the consumption of this water. Exactly when all of this started is still under debate, but those are the kind of problems people are having. And some people have been hospitalized, a lot of people are not feeling well. And it's very important when you deal with these toxic exposures that these things can develop over time. So what's happening right now, it may be worse, three or four months from now as the consequences of these chemicals in our body, in their bodies manifest themselves with other conditions. And I might just say that our team, the Bickerton Law Group, Andrews & Thornton, and myself, which is a legal team addressing these issues, are going to the people on the mainland and in the science medicine. Industry, and professions to find out what it is we should be looking for among our clients.

Wayne Parsons: 

And then make sure our clients know what it is we should all be looking for, and understand what the connections between these particular chemicals are, and the human body, and illnesses, and diseases, and injuries. That is a work in progress, but we are actively pursuing that aspect of it.

Rob Rosenthal: 

You've started just recently, filed a class action suit. Tell me, what is that all about?

Wayne Parsons: 

Yeah, so this is very important for people to understand. We filed the class action suit on January 6th, and again, I'm talking Bickerton Law Group, Jim Bickerton, myself, Ann Andrews, and her law firm, we filed a class action suit that is directed at the rental agreements. It's directed at the lease agreements that the tenants had signed to reside in these properties, because that's a separate type of a claim. Their landlord is a company with a complicated name, CP4, but it's a subsidiary of a very big company called Carmel Properties, and they are making all the people in this housing development pay rent, and the houses are uninhabitable, so the people have this great desire to get away from that property, if the Navy and the property manager can't provide them with drinkable water. So they wanna get out of the property, but they can't afford to pay the rent. They're being asked to pay rent now, and they're told if they want to leave they've gotta pay two months of rent, and they can't afford to do that and go out and put a security deposit down on another piece of property, another rental property, so we have filed the class action to intervene in that crisis, that's a financial crisis, and we're gonna ask the Federal court.

Wayne Parsons: 

We filed a temporary restraining order for preliminary and permanent injunction against the landlord to stop them from collecting rent. The landlord gets money, that's what they do, and we wanna turn off the money pipe that goes to the landlord until the landlord can produce drinkable water out of the faucets in the homes. That's gonna be heard in Friday, in state court, and we're hoping to intervene, and stop the collection of money from our clients. That's off of the class action suit, and it has to do with the landlord rental agreement with these residents. A second type of claim is an injury case, and that's for somebody who became ill, or was injured by consuming this water, being bathed in the water. When you take a bath, there's a lot of steam in the air, well, guess what? That steam's got these petrochemicals in it, or whatever else was in the pipes that leaked out of the pipes, still a matter to be pinned down, and so we want to screen those cases, and make sure that we get people who have injuries, particularly children, there are pregnant women in those projects. We wanna make sure that we capture those types of claims.

Wayne Parsons: 

That takes a little longer because that is a case that would be against the landlord, Carmel, but it also be against the Navy, and to bring a claim against the United States government there's a procedure that can take a few months to get the paperwork done, and there's some delays involved, so we need to start screening those cases immediately. And we're gonna try to help the people understand what it is they should be worried about, and we do that with science. We get scientists that are the tops in the field to tell us what we should be looking for, and then we will bring personal injury cases for those people. That is not a class action, everybody who is injured has their own case. We may file some of them in the same action, but they would be individual cases for individual people, minors, adults, whoever is been made ill by this. And I would add, that one very important part of that claim, of those claims, and we're in drafting this up right now, our medical monitoring claims, this is well known to lawyers who do these toxic chemical exposure poisoning cases, where you have a fund created that can be used by the people going forward to test, and do these medical tests and examinations to monitor them over time, because somebody who doesn't have a problem right now, they might have a problem down the road.

Wayne Parsons: 

As you may know, children are oftentimes exposed to these pesticides, and things like that, and everything's fine, but when they're 17-years-old they have problems, they have illnesses that are associated with those exposures. The same thing is true here. And there's a lot of science on this, there's a lot of great scientists across the country to study it, and we're gonna try to create a medical monitoring fund to address the real long-term consequences of this.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So two different questions, Wayne, what do people need to do right now? Let's break it up. If somebody thinks they would qualify in the class action, do they need to do anything as far as contacting your team? And the same question for someone that thinks they may have a personal injury.

Wayne Parsons: 

So, the way class actions work is we have class representatives, and that's two, or three, or four people who are class representatives, but the class action covers everybody similarly situated, so it would cover all of the people who have been in those houses and have lease agreements with the landlord, the owner, and that would be Carmel Properties CP4. And so on the injury cases, it covers anybody that was in the houses, what we need people to do, we need their information. There's an intake page, we call it a landing page, we need those intake forms, and the intake forms should be for everybody. Everybody that was in that house that was exposed to the water. We definitely want the intake from the person who signed the lease, and if two people sign the lease, we need both of their names and information. Then we need to know all of the people who were exposed, because that will help us identify people who may have injury claims, they may not even know it yet, and we need to screen them and be careful to make sure that if they do have a problem, we can identify it and we can bring a claim on their behalf. And so it's the information we need. We love to get data, names, addresses, and we will be in touch and then we will advise them into what group they fall into.

Wayne Parsons: 

This is a major set of lawsuits that is going to be filed to address different aspects of what's going on. And right now, we wanna stop them from collecting rent because that's causing huge economic harm to people who can't drink the water in the house. So I'd say the most important thing anybody can do is get us the information. My name's Wayne Parsons, if you can't find the landing site, call me, call my office, my staff is ready to get your information and get you to the right place to get the forms filled out. And we're standing by to help anybody who reaches out, obviously the more clients we have, the more effective we are at bargaining and arguing and litigating with the defendants. But again, every client is an individual and we will treat them all as individuals, and each client has the same importance to us. And on the injury side, they have their individual cases and they will be treated as individuals.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Fascinating conversation, Wayne. And it sounds like things are changing pretty quickly, so hopefully we'll talk to you again very soon. And as soon as there's more news and more information that we can pass along.

Wayne Parsons: 

Yes, you will. I would appreciate that. And we will have a lot of information every week, so hopefully I'll be able to report out to current events as they happen.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Perfect, that's gonna do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been Hawaii attorney, Wayne Parsons. If you do wanna get in touch with Wayne, one or a couple of ways to do it is to call the phone number that you see on the screen while we're talking, or you can go to askthelawyers.com, click the button up at the top that says ask the lawyer, and that is another easy way to get in touch with him. Thank you for watching, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal for, Ask the Lawyers.

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