Indiana RV makers being sued over hurricane-issued trailers

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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More than a dozen RV manufacturers that supplied the Federal Emergency Management Agency with trailers following Hurricane Katrina are being sued in federal court in Louisiana, including a handful based in Indiana.

A suit filed this week in the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans accuses the manufacturers of using inferior construction materials in a profit-driven rush to build the trailers for the federal government. The 63-page filing includes nearly 50 pages of more than 500 plaintiffs who've lived in the trailers and are suing the companies. The lead plaintiff is Jerome Culler, who is suing individually and on behalf of his wife, Joan, who lives in one of the trailers at issue.

Hoosier-based defendants include Coachmen Industries in Elkhart, Gulf Stream Coach in Nappanee, Starcraft RV in Topeka, Ind., Jayco Enterprises and Pilgrim International in Middlebury, Recreation by Design LLC and Skyline Corp. in Elkhart, Keystone Industries in Indianapolis, and Ohio-based Thor Industries that owns several Indiana trailer manufacturers.

Texas attorney Anthony Buzbee is representing the plaintiffs. He could not be immediately reached by Indiana Lawyer for comment.

Only 14,000 trailers were available when the federal government contracted to buy more than 100,000 units of temporary housing after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, according to the lawsuit. To meet that demand, manufacturers set up assembly lines and produced trailers in as little as 10 minutes without the usual quality control, the suit says.

FEMA isn't named as a defendant in this suit but has agreed to have the air quality tested in some of the trailers. Formaldehyde, a common preservative and embalming fluid, sometimes is found in building materials that are used in manufactured homes. The chemical can cause respiratory problems and possibly cancer in high doses or with prolonged exposure.

The suit alleges negligence and recklessness, breach of implied warranties, and various violations of state and common liability laws.

The hurricane survivors are seeking monetary damages, though the suit doesn't specify an amount. The lawsuit also asks for an order requiring the companies to remove from the trailers all material containing formaldehyde, to modify the trailers for adequate ventilation and other remedies.

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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.