In Town Where Train Derailed, Lawyers Are Signing Up Clients in Droves 美火車出軌燒出官司財 律師湧入小鎮吸金
In the four weeks since a freight train derailed in East Palestine and released more than 100,000 gallons of toxic chemicals, lawyers have poured into the little town, signing up clients, gathering evidence and already filing more than a dozen lawsuits in federal court on behalf of local residents.
Their message overall has been one of warning: It may be months, years or possibly even decades before the derailment's ultimate effect on people's health, property values or the soil and water becomes clear.
Among a public that is deeply skeptical of official test results — Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, and other state and federal officials say they have not shown anything alarming so far — or camera-friendly efforts at reassurance, these warnings have resonated.
"They get what's happening," Rene Rocha, a lawyer with personal injury firm Morgan & Morgan, said during a state hearing about the derailment Thursday in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, just across the border from East Palestine.
Referring to residents there who had spoken at the hearing about headaches, coughs and other classic symptoms of chemical exposure, he added: "They see they're not getting the truth from the politicians and the company. That leaves the lawyers."
The huge scale of the chemical burn-off and the harrowing images of the fire, as well as the intense politicization of it all, have made the derailment in East Palestine among the most high-profile environmental disasters in the country in years.
The legal machinations are in their early stages. Cases might ultimately be consolidated as class-action or multidistrict litigation; most of the suits will almost surely end up bundled before one or several federal judges in an Ohio courtroom.
Norfolk Southern may offer some sort of resolution voluntarily, whether by setting up a compensation fund with an independent administrator or establishing a court-supervised medical monitoring program, where people could come for free testing related to possible health effects.
The company has already been paying $1,000 in "inconvenience compensation" to people who had to evacuate. Although Norfolk Southern insists that the payments do not curtail anyone's right to sue, many are skeptical.
At the Oscar Nominees Luncheon, a Crowd in Cruise Control 奧斯卡入圍午宴 變群星拱日大會
For the privileged few embarking on an Oscar campaign, the path to a nomination asks you to hobnob with so many of the same people that over the course of many months, your competitors can begin to feel like classmates.
But on Monday afternoon, at a luncheon held in Beverly Hills, California, for this year's Oscar nominees, the arrival of a new student caused quite a stir.
That would be Tom Cruise, nominated this year as a producer of the megahit best picture contender "Top Gun: Maverick." He was among the first notable names to walk into the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton. The 60-year-old star had sat out both the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards this season, so many of his fellow nominees were encountering him for the first time. Before long, the ballroom had turned into a massive meet-and-greet.
"I love you, I love you, oh, my God!" said "Everything Everywhere All at Once" star Ke Huy Quan, who hopped in place, exclaiming, "I want a picture with this man!" before seizing a selfie with Cruise. Director Guillermo del Toro went over for an embrace, as did nominated actors Brendan Fraser, Angela Bassett and Michelle Williams. Cruise even posed for pictures with Steven Spielberg, a once-frequent collaborator whom the star has not been publicly photographed with in over a decade.
The nominees luncheon is supposed to be an egalitarian affair where big stars and behind-the-scenes technicians are on equal footing, but there was no mistaking Cruise as the ballroom's top dog: He had the gravitational pull of the sun and its burnt-orange countenance, too.
Still, simply making it to Cruise took some time: In the schmoozy hour before lunch was served, he was so mobbed by his fellow nominees that he was hardly able to move more than a few feet. I watched for a while as "Elvis" star Austin Butler drifted with slow, inexorable determination toward Cruise, who finally pulled the younger man toward him by clamping a hand on his shoulder like a stapler. For several minutes, they were locked in such a tight bro-embrace that it was impossible to discern what they were talking about.
So instead, I made my way to "Top Gun: Maverick" producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who observed the scene serenely just a few feet away. "It's my first time at the luncheon," said the newly nominated producer, who's better known for making explosive action movies than Oscar fare. "After 50 years in the business, I finally get here."