POSTED: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 10:00pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 10:04pm
BAYOU CORNE,LA (NBC33) — Lawyers representing residents in Bayou Corne say federal judge in New Orleans issued a minute entry certifying a class action against Texas Brine and Occidental Chemical Corporation on behalf of the residents who have been evacuated since August 2012. It's the next step in moving a class action suit forward and getting residents closer to some relief. There are still a few steps ahead before it goes to trial, but residents who chose not to get a lawyer are worried: they may not have a choice anymore.
"How do I feel. I feel like i'm being forced to do something I didn't want to do," Marilyn Pritchard, Bayou Corne resident without a lawyer, explained.
Pritchard has waited months for sign of relief in Bayou Corne. She evacuated her home in August a sinkhole formed near her home. She like the rest of the community say Texas Brine is to blame for more than 15 acre sinkhole. But Pritchard chose not to get a lawyer.
She was supposed to get a buyout offer for her home on mother's day, but a representative for Texas Brine told her the company just couldn't do it, because of insurance problems.
"I was ready for an offer," She said. "I had amounts in my head. What we were going to do, and it's just stopped. "
She's one of 105 households in Bayou Corne who chose not to get a lawyer, and applied to get bought out. She said she did everything she could to make it easier for the company to send her an offer, but it didn't work.
"Well I was mad at my self for believing that they would actually follow through. I just had convinced myself that they didn't want lawyers involved. I didn't want a lawyer involved," Pritchard explained.
Now, a New Orleans federal court gave the ok for a class action lawsuit. Both residents with and without lawyers will eventually be included.
Soon, property owners like Pritchard have a big decision to make: either get a lawyer or chose to opt out of the lawsuit and fend for themselves.
"I don't know why I have to get a lawyer, because it's my right to protect my property and they (Texas Brine) have ruled the value of it," She described.
She never wanted a lawyer, because she didn't want to spend years dealing with the court system. Now Pritchard said she could end up getting a lawyer, because it might be the only way she could get the settlement offer she deserves.
The next status conference is set for June 13, 2013 at which point the Court
indicated that it may set a trial date.
On May 29, at 5:30 pm, steering committee will hold an informational
meeting at the Assumption Parish Community Center, 4910 HWY 308,
Napoleonville, LA 70390.