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Court stays six Red Hill lawsuits until verdict is reached in recent trial
By Selected News Articles @ 3:14 PM :: 567 Views :: Honolulu County, Environment, Military

Court stays six Red Hill lawsuits until verdict is reached in recent trial

by Kim Jarrett, The Center Square, Jun 11, 2024

(The Center Square) - A U.S. District Judge has ordered a stay in six lawsuits related to the November 2021 fuel leak at the U.S. Navy's Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii as another case involving multiple plaintiffs is nearing its conclusion.

The plaintiffs in Feindt v. United States submitted closing argument briefs last week. The trial ended in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii on May 12 after two weeks of testimony.

The case, filed under the Federal Torts Claims Act, alleges negligence when jet fuel leaked into the water supply. It was heard in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii last month.

The plaintiffs, most of them military families, said they experienced unusual health symptoms as a result of the leak, including headaches, stomach issues, dizziness, seizures, memory loss and skin rashes. They are seeking combined damages in the millions, according to documents filed in federal court.

Dr. Steven Bird, the plaintiff's expert, testified the symptoms resulted from the fuel leak.

"In this case, there were no reliable, real-time measurements of water concentration of jet fuel in the water distribution system," the plaintiffs said in the brief. "As a result, Dr. Bird found that it was not appropriate to do an individual calculation of each Plaintiff’s exposure. He nevertheless concluded that there was sufficient evidence to determine, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the Plaintiffs were exposed at levels sufficient to cause medical injury."

Government attorneys will file their briefs on June 24. The plaintiffs have until July 12 to respond. U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi is expected to decide the case after the briefs are filed.

The six lawsuits involved in the court-ordered stay requested by the government involve 2,375 people, according to documents filed in court.

"In the interest of judicial economy and in recognition that the Court’s findings in the Feindt Trial may provide insight and further clarity on certain facts and issues in dispute across the six cases, it would be prudent to stay depositions in these six matters pending the verdict in the Feindt trial," the court said. "All depositions shall be stayed in these matters until September 1, 2024."

The U.S. Navy is facing a $1.2 billion claim from the Honolulu Board of Water Supply filed in November 2023. BWS claims the fuel leak forced it to shut down its Halawa Shaft and other drinking wells to protect its water system. The company also implemented water quality testing and temporarily relied on other sources.

The Hawaii Department of Health ordered the Navy to close Red Hill in March 2022. The defueling process began last October. The closure is expected to take several years.



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