The second of five “bellwether” trials on the environmental safety of travel trailers built for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for 2005 hurricane victims is scheduled to begin Monday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans.
Forest River Inc. is the defendant in this case, along with environmental testing firm Shaw Environmental Inc. and FEMA, brought by Lyndon T. Wright.
The suit, filed March 2, 2009, claims Forest River supplied trailers to FEMA that were contaminated with toxic levels of formaldehyde.
Forest River and other RV manufacturers supplied tens of thousands of trailers for emergency use following hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. The trailer makers subsequently faced lawsuits from hurricane victims claiming that the formaldehyde caused their health to deteriorate. Company lawyers say the trailers were safe.
Forest River, represented by New Orleans attorneys Jason D. Bone and Ernest P. Gieger Jr., has identified more than 60 witnesses by name that it could call during the trial before Judge Kurt Englehardt. The U.S. government has named 33 witnesses it plans to call in its defense.
On Sept. 24, a jury took just four hours to find Gulf Stream Coach Inc. innocent of similar accusations from a family that occupied a trailer made by the Nappanee, Ind.-based company.
Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. and Keystone RV Co. Inc. also were sued in the same court. The case against Fleetwood, the predecessor company to the current Fleetwood RV Inc., was settled out of court in a confidential agreement, which was approved on Wednesday by the court in Riverside, Calif., overseeing Fleetwood’s bankruptcy, according to Fleetwood attorney Richard Hines.
The Keystone trial, scheduled to begin Jan. 11, has been rescheduled to a later date.