Kia Franklin

FEMA taken to court for Formaldehyde Trailers

Photo from

You may remember when it came out that FEMA had given Katrina victims toxic trailers as emergency housing. About 35,000 of the trailers had high enough traces of formaldehyde to give many people serious respiratory problems and other serious illnesses. Not surprising, seeing that formaldehyde is considered a carcinogen.

But what you won't remember are the lawsuits by dozens of people against FEMA for providing these trailers and for not pulling them as soon as they had reason to believe they were making people sick. You won't remember this because it didn't happen until just yesterday. According to this AP article, there is some six month period that has to pass between making a legal claim about the FEMA trailers and actually adding/naming FEMA as a defendant in those claims. I'm not sure why this is. It sounds strange, but maybe there's a rational explanation. However, rather than look into the reason why victims had to wait six months, I'll just say it's good they FINALLY are able to access the courts to hold FEMA responsible for whatever hand the agency had in further victimizing Katrina survivors.

The lawyer for the plaintiffs told reporters: "I don't think we can have any conversation ... about this controversy without the government's role in this being legally addressed."

Tort deformers often talk about the effect lawsuits have on corporations, say that injured people should just leave the corporations alone and get over it, or bemoan punitive damages against reckless corporations as too harsh. Well, the civil justice system is also about empowering Joe Q. Public in his fight against governmental abuse. And, well, to say the least, this case against FEMA ain't frivolous.

As we think about the role of corporate power in our lives and in our ability to live life in safety and free from undue harm, it's important to also remember the role of the government. The branches of our government should be protecting us and allowing us to enforce our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But this FEMA debacle is one of many examples of corruption and cronyism in the government that often parallels corporate crime. Luckly, our government's got something called checks and balances, and through access to the court system Katrina victims can find justice and call attention to the need to clean up some of our federal agencies.

Kia Franklin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 4:23 PM, Mar 19, 2008 in Hurricane Katrina
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