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Richmond plastics recycler faces class action lawsuit for the fire

By Rebecca Thiele, IPB News | Published on in Community, Environment, Health, Law, Local News
The class action lawsuit alleges the owner of My Way Trading knew the property was unsafe, but didn’t take necessary steps to address it — leading to the events that caused the fire. (Rebecca Thiele/IPB News)

Richmond residents are suing the owner of the former plastics recycling business that caught fire. The fire displaced more than a thousand people and sent harmful smoke and debris into the air.

It alleges the owner of My Way Trading knew the property was unsafe, but didn’t take necessary steps to address it — leading to the events that caused the fire.

Two residents and one business close to the warehouses are named in the class action lawsuit, but the law firm representing residents said many more could follow.

Richmond resident Roscoe Holder said he joined the class action suit to see some justice for a fire that never should have happened. he said when his family evacuated, they were unable to bring equipment that helps his son with cerebral palsy walk, talk and sit up.

“The only thing we have in our car 24/7 is his specialized stroller. So he was pretty much just sitting in that the whole time or he would have to lay on the floor the whole time we were evacuated,” Holder said.

READ MORE: City releases evidence showing Richmond plastics recycling business was a fire hazard

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Holder said when his family returned home, their house still had a plastic, chemical smell — which made him concerned.

Among other things, the suit said the fire harmed residents’ physical and emotional health, caused them to lose wages and lowered their property values.

Trevor Crossen owns Crossen Law Firm, which represents Richmond residents in the suit. He said the lawsuit will help protect residents affected by the fire and allow the firm to get documents to determine its cause.

“I have some clients that are still in hotels. I have clients that are still off work. I have clients that can’t go back to their house, even now, because they have various medical conditions that don’t allow them to be back in this area,” Crossen said.

The plaintiffs are seeking at least $25,000 in damages. Crossen said for a governmental entity, historically the cap for class action suits is about $700,000 per person or $5 million total.

Crossen said he believes the city of Richmond is also partly responsible for the fire and could face legal action in the future. The city owns part of the property and knew My Way Trading was a fire hazard waiting to happen.

The city attorney has said Richmond may pursue its own lawsuit against the company once cleanup is done. Fire officials are still working to investigate the cause of the fire and have asked former employees at the Richmond plastics recycler for help.

A community help line for Richmond residents is available at 765-973-9300 and the city of Richmond’s website.

We couldn’t reach the city or the owner of My Way Trading for comment.

Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele