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FEMA’s Toxic Trailers: No Liability (Suckers)

Written by Gary North on February 8, 2012

You may remember that FEMA housed victims of Katrina in newly purchased trailers. These trailers gave off formaldehyde fumes. This made residents sick. Residents sued.

Tough bananas, folks. A federal court has let FEMA off the hook.

FEMA used taxpayers’ money to house people. A free gift (with stolen money) lets FEMA off the hook.

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Mississippi and Alabama residents cannot sue the U.S. government over formaldehyde-laden trailers that the Federal Emergency Management Agency provided when Hurricane Katrina made thousands of homes uninhabitable, the 5th Circuit ruled.

Agreeing with the August 2010 decision of a federal judge, the federal appeals court said the plaintiffs, representing 10,000 residents, lack subject-matter jurisdiction to sue since FEMA provided the trailers at no cost to residents and under no obligation.

In 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes along the Gulf Coast. The Federal Emergency Management Agency contracted private businesses to immediately construct and provide thousands of travel trailers to give residents as temporary shelter until other housing became available.

FEMA trailers were available at no cost to residents for use as temporary emergency housing from September 2005 until May 2009. Applications for receiving the trailers notified residents that the units were intended for temporary use and that applicants were required to accept alternative housing options as they became available.

Seven months in, FEMA began receiving complaints from trailer occupants about formaldehyde odors inside the units. Formaldehyde is a chemical substance commonly found in construction materials such as plywood, particle board, home furnishing and fabrics. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, it is a known human carcinogen. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies it as a probable human carcinogen.

FEMA notified these early complainants to ventilate the trailers by opening the doors and windows. In June 2006, FEMA prepared an informal brochure informing trailer occupants of the dangers of formaldehyde exposure, encouraging them to ventilate their units and urging them to seek medical help if they developed health problems related to formaldehyde.

It began working with the Environmental Protection Agency on the issue in September 2006, with more than 200 occupants had complained to FEMA about formaldehyde by the end of the year.

After lawsuits over the substance began accumulating, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated all the cases and assigned the matter to Louisiana’s Eastern District. . . .

Though FEMA knew about formaldehyde levels in trailers between March and June 2006, it allegedly failed to respond to occupants’ concerns as part of a deliberate effort to avoid liability for future formaldehyde exposure claims and litigation. The plaintiffs also claimed that FEMA ignored and manipulated federal scientists’ concerns to forestall negative publicity and legal liability.
After concluding that emergency statutes in Mississippi and Alabama law would bar suit against a “private person under similar circumstances,” the trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims on summary judgment.

The United States cannot be sued without consent, and that consent is a prerequisite to federal jurisdiction. Courts must measure the government’s liability according to the law of the state where the alleged act occurred. In this case, Mississippi and Alabama law applied. . . .

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You can get the juicy details by clicking the link.

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8 thoughts on “FEMA’s Toxic Trailers: No Liability (Suckers)

  1. Has anyone of those been in a trailer in hot weather. The only relief from not feeling like one is in an oven is AC. Windows open don't help much of anything.
    Another thing, some of my friends and others were completely abandoned by the insurance companies after many years of paying into them so that they could not even restore their own property. (Lame excuses by the ins. cos.).

  2. Addition to above comment; failed to mention, I was writing about Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which was worse hit than even New Orleans.

  3. Myrtlelinder says:

    I can remember the awful response that the Katrina victims got, assistance that many had paid dearly that did materialize. Government, insurance companies did not seem to be aware of what the need were. Many times when assistance was sent to the wrong places, no organization was available.

  4. Out of the 10's of thousands of trailers sold to FEMA the complaints involved less then 30 trailers. Never listen / believe tial lawyers. Oh by the way FEMA is still paying to keep those people who had to be moved in housing across the united states along with paying all their bills. Just sticking it to the taxpayers.

  5. Patriot Diva says:

    My mother and niece both lost their homes. Mom lived 23 miles south of New Orleans, and my neice lived 5 miles from the N.O. city limits. What most people don't realize is that even though Katrina was a Category 5 storm, Hurricane Rita which hit N.O. just a couple of weeks later flooded an already saturated city. Rita was the storm that did more damage, but it got little press. Mom had two feet of water in her home. When she was finally able to go back to N.O. to check on things, mold had grown almost all the way up to the ceiling. She even found a live lampray eel in her bedroom. The entire family, all eleven of them stayed at my home in South Carolina. They all live here now. The entire Gulf Coast was pretty much decimated from Texas to Alabama. That second storm really had an impact, but you never hear about it. I'm just glad they were all safe and got out in time. Fortunately, being an experienced evacuee, Mom saved the family photo albums.

  6. Old Saying: Never look a gift horse in the mouth. Can't the manufacturers of these trailers be held responsible for health violations?

  7. toosmarttovoteGOP says:

    Anyone who seriously thought that anything from the shrub's administration would ever be held to account for anything they've done to this country is kidding themselves.

  8. toosmarttovoteGOP says:

    It's less than their being unaware of the need than it being that they didn't care.