Judge asked to OK Norfolk Southern deal

EAST PALESTINE — Attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit against Norfolk Southern have filed a motion asking a federal court judge to grant preliminary approval of the $600 million principal settlement that was announced earlier this month.

Despite what the motion called a belief that “the claims asserted against Norfolk Southern in this case have merit” and that plaintiffs would “ultimately be successful in prevailing on the merits at trial,” the length of time it would take for the case to play out in court, coupled with the expense of the litigation and the uncertainty of how it would end, led the plaintiffs to seek a settlement.

The settlement agreement “will provide relief now, as opposed to years, or even decades, down the road,” the motion states. “Recognizing that further litigation would be risky, burdensome, and expensive, plaintiffs and Norfolk Southern agree that it is desirable and beneficial that the case is settled.”

The motion states the agreement “provides substantial recovery” for East Palestine and surrounding area, and “will provide households, families and local businesses much-needed, immediate relief for the losses, suffering and inconvenience they have endured since February 3, 2023.”

The motion and exhibits filed along with it revealed the proposed timeline of the approval process, setting the final approval hearing as Sept. 25.

The documents also revealed how much the plaintiffs’ lawyers could receive from brokering the deal. Under the agreement, attorneys for the class agree to “seek no more than 27% of the total monetary recovery” and “costs and expenses up to 3% of the fund.” That means attorneys stand to earn $180 million — $162 million in legal fees and $18 million in other expenses.

The filing also requested Kroll Settlement Administration LLC be appointed as the settlement administrator to “determine the allocation formula and fixed amounts” based on criteria that includes geographic proximity, household size, number of children in the household, relocation mandates and length of displacement. Payments will be distributed based on a point system.

The motion clarified that claims within the first 10 miles will be scored. For plaintiffs 10- to 20-miles out, only actual displacement and extraordinary injuries will be considered. Businesses are entitled to losses that can be proven through tax returns or other documents.



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