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  • Writer's pictureJust Well Law

Civil Beat: Judge In Red Hill Trial Takes On Question Of Compensation


Kristina Baehr, attorney at Just Well Law in Austin, Texas, speaking to reporters about the Red Hill Trial.
Toxic Torts attorney Kristina Baehr speaking to reporters about the Red Hill trial where thousands of families were harmed by contaminated water.

The article by Civil Beat explores the aftermath of a contamination incident at the Navy’s Red Hill storage complex in 2021, where families were inadvertently exposed to toxic water, and their subsequent legal battle for compensation and accountability. Attorney Kristina Baehr, of Just Well Law in Austin, Texas, representing the affected families, emphasized two main objectives: securing fair compensation for their suffering and deterring such incidents in the future.


Kristina Baehr argued for substantial compensation ranging from $225,000 to $1.25 million per person, totaling nearly $7 million for 17 bellwether plaintiffs, whose cases would set precedents for others. The toxic torts attorney emphasized that the families' aim was not punitive but protective, seeking to safeguard their water, families, and country from similar catastrophes.


On the contrary, Department of Justice attorney Eric Rey contended that the fuel levels in the water were insufficient to cause harm, likening it to the fleeting exposure experienced at gas stations. He refuted claims of adverse health effects, maintaining that scientific evidence didn’t support the plaintiffs' wide-ranging health concerns.


The trial, a first of its kind following the contamination of Pearl Harbor’s drinking water system, shed light on the profound deficiencies in the Navy's maintenance and operation of Red Hill. More than 5,700 people reported immediate symptoms post-contamination, including nausea and headaches. Testimonies during the trial vividly illustrated the physical and psychological toll on the families, with descriptions of ailments likened to jellyfish stings and dagger-like lesions.


Kristina Baehr underscored the long-term health implications, citing instances where the exposure reactivated dormant conditions and caused brain injuries. The personal injury attorney also highlighted the psychological anguish, especially among parents who felt they couldn’t protect their families.


The legal proceedings navigated complexities in quantifying damages, given the unprecedented nature of the case. Baehr drew parallels with other contamination crises, such as Flint, Michigan, and Camp Lejeune, emphasizing the protracted struggles victims faced in securing compensation.


While the government didn't address compensation directly, Rey suggested attributing some ailments to factors other than the Red Hill incident. Ultimately, U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Kobayashi will determine causation and damages, acknowledging the families' suffering and expressing her limitations in restoring their pre-incident lives.


Kobayashi’s closing remarks aimed to provide solace, recognizing the families' ordeal and hoping for closure post-judgment. Despite the trial's conclusion, the broader implications of the Red Hill case extend beyond monetary compensation, emphasizing the imperative of robust safeguards to prevent similar crises and the enduring quest for justice and accountability.


Read the full article on CivilBeat.com

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