Plaintiffs can opt out of Ferriday water suit

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 7, 2003

FERRIDAY, La. &045; A lawsuit against the Town of Ferriday has been simmering on the back burner since 1999, when water customers were inconvenienced by a 124-day boil water notice.

Before the legal heat gets turned up, attorney Chuck Norris is giving potential plaintiffs a chance to remove themselves from the class-action suit.

After the town lifted the notice, which ran from Aug. 20 to Dec. 22, 1999, Ferriday resident and restaurant owner Gloria Martello filed suit on behalf of her fellow water users.

Email newsletter signup

The class, certified by Judge Kathy Johnson in July 2001, includes anyone &045; residents, business owners or operators, employees of those businesses, hospital patients or students &045; who got his or her water from the Town of Ferriday Water Plant during the time of the notice.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Johnson’s ruling, and last July, the state Supreme Court denied writs of review from the suit’s three defendants, the Town of Ferriday, engineers Owen and White Inc. and U.S. Filter Wastewater Group Inc., the company that made Ferriday’s water plant.

Because the suit has been class certified, anyone who fits the description approved by Johnson is eligible to receive damages if the lawsuit is successful. There is no need to &uot;sign up&uot; as a plaintiff.

But for those who would rather not have anything to do with anything remotely litigious, Norris is required to allow members of the class to opt out.

And because many people may not know that they are plaintiffs or even that the suit was class certified, Norris is publishing, per court order, a detailed notice spelling out all qualifying factors and instructions for opting out in local newspapers.

The deadline for getting off the list of plaintiffs is Feb. 24, but Norris said he doesn’t anticipate any contraction of the plaintiff pool, which has been estimated at 4,000 people.

&uot;We expect an increase,&uot; he said.

Norris said he hopes the suit will go to trial as early as the first half of 2004, but the courts are hard to predict, and the legal process is never fast.

&uot;(The courts) move slower than we all want them to move,&uot; Norris said.