ILNews

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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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

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