In the years since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, thousands of their
victims who received shelter in Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers
have sued the trailer manufacturers for auto products liability because
of illnesses they sustained from exposure to high levels of formaldehyde
in the mobile homes.
Some 143,000 trailers were used as emergency housing units following the two storms. Later, federal tests on hundreds of FEMA mobile homes in Mississippi and Louisiana determined that the levels of formaldehyde (a carcinogen linked to breathing problems) found in the trailers was about five times greater than what can be found in modern homes.
FEMA trailer lawyers representing clients have accused the trailer manufacturers of using poor methods and materials in an attempt to quickly construct the mobile homes to meet FEMA’s demand for temporary residences on the Gulf Coast following both hurricanes.
One plaintiff, Elisha Dubuclet, says the high levels of formaldehyde that she and her family were exposed to while living in a FEMA trailer aggravated her daughter’s eczema and increased her chances of getting cancer. Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. made the trailer where Dubuclet’s family lived. Other FEMA trailer residents have complained of breathing problems, eye, throat, and nose irritation, and nausea.
Trailer residents were not the only ones made ill from exposure to the high levels of formaldehyde. According to a CBS News report, Linda Esparza and Tommy Yager, a mother and son who worked on the construction of some of the FEMA trailers, say they experienced flu like symptoms and fatigue as a result. The two of them built the trailers for Gulf Stream Coach, an RV maker contracted to make 50,000 trailers as quickly as possible. At one point in 2006, Gulf Stream Coach was producing over 100 trailers each day—that’s triple the rate of regular production.
In July 2008, officials for Gulf Stream Coach, Forest River, Keystone RV, and Pilgrim International testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. They admitted that they knew the FEMA trailers they made for the hurricane victims contained unsafe levels of formaldehyde.
Deal in works to resolve some FEMA trailer claims, AP/Google, December 2, 2009
Manufacturers say they knew of FEMA trailer health risks, Christian Science Monitor, July 11, 2008
Did Trailer Makers Know About Toxic Fumes?, CBS, July 8, 2008
Related Web Resources:
FEMA Moving 35,000 Hurricane Katrina Families Out of Toxic Trailers, Product Liability Law Blog, February 18, 2008
Federal Emergency Management Agency
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
Contact our auto products liability lawyers to schedule your free case evaluation. RV manufacturers can be held liable for auto products liability if a defective auto part or another hazard in their mobile home was the cause of someone’s injury, illness, or death.