Frequently Asked Questions
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This class action lawsuit seeks to recover money for the people and businesses harmed by the Incident. Judge James F. Lang of the Essex County Superior Court of Massachusetts is overseeing this case, called In re Columbia Gas Cases, Civil Action No. 1877CV01343G. In the lawsuit, the Plaintiffs allege that Columbia Gas caused the Incident and, as a result, the Class suffered real property damage, personal property damage, displacement expenses, lost wages, loss of business income, diminution of property value, emotional distress, disruption, inconvenience, loss of use and enjoyment of property and loss of goodwill. Columbia Gas denies legal responsibility for these damages.
You are a Class Member if you resided, owned property or owned a business in the Class Area on September 13, 2018, unless you work for Columbia Gas or any of its subsidiaries, affiliates, or owners. If you are unsure whether you are part of the Class, a list of eligible addresses is available in the Documents section of this website.
The Settlement creates a $143 million Settlement Fund to make: (1) cash payments to Class Members; and (2) Court-approved payments for Settlement administration, attorneys’ fees and expenses, and Class Representative Awards. Class Counsel will request attorneys’ fees of up to 16.5% of the Settlement Fund ($23,595,000), settlement notice and administration costs and attorneys’ costs and expenses up to 3% of the Fund ($4,290,000), and a $5,000 award to each of the eight Class Representatives. These amounts were agreed to through the mediation process. The Court may award less than these amounts.
To be eligible for a monetary award from the Settlement, Class Members must submit a Claim Form (see FAQ 5 ). How much you get will be determined through a Court-supervised claims process. Not all Class Members will receive the same amount. This Settlement is separate from Columbia Gas’s $80 million settlement with the communities of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.
After deductions for approved attorneys’ fees and costs, case Incentive Awards to Class Representatives, and Settlement Notice and Administration costs, the remaining funds will be distributed to Class Members in one of two ways: (1) Court-approved lump sum payments; or (2) itemized compensation of losses or expenses.
Lump Sum Payments
Individual Class Members can get a lump sum payment from the Settlement Fund based on a Court-approved formula, that takes into account a number of factors, including geographic location, household size, length of displacement and/or service disruption and the nature of property damage, if any. Your payment will be based on how severely your life was disrupted, as determined by the Settlement Administrator using these factors. These are the potential, estimated lump sum amounts based on the severity of disruption caused by the Incident:
Up to $50
Up to $250
Up to $2,500
Up to $5,000
Up to $15,000
To get a lump sum payment, you must submit a Claim Form. Lump sum payments will not be reduced by any payment you already received from Columbia Gas, but Itemized Claims may be so reduced. If, after everyone sends in Claim Forms, the compensation claims total more than $143 million net of costs, the payments will be reduced. If the compensation claims are less than that, the payments will be increased.
Class Members that are businesses may only submit an itemized compensation Claim. Individual Class Members may choose to submit a Claim for itemized compensation of losses in addition to the lump sum payment described above if, as of August 30, 2019, they have:
(1) an existing, unresolved claim pending in Columbia Gas’s claims process supported by all documentation supporting the unreimbursed losses (documentation must be dated);
(2) or an otherwise extraordinary claim for uncompensated losses or damages supported by such dated documentation.
The Settlement Administrator will conduct a detailed review of itemized compensation claims. This detailed review may significantly delay the payment of both the lump sum payment and itemized compensation, if any. Itemized compensation claimants may also have their potential award, if any, reduced by the amount of any payment already received from Columbia Gas through its original natural gas event claims process.
Whether you submit a lump sum Claim, an itemized Claim or do nothing, if the Settlement is approved you will not be able to sue, continue to sue, or be part of any other lawsuit against Columbia Gas about the legal issues in this case.
To qualify for payment, you must timely submit a Claim Form. Read the instructions carefully. You can submit the completed Claim Form by mail to Columbia Gas Settlement, c/o Settlement Administrator, PO Box 58729, Philadelphia, PA 19102-8729, or on this website. The completed Claim Form must be submitted by no later than January 31, 2020. If the Court approves the Settlement, checks should go out by March 2020. But there may be appeals. It’s always uncertain whether these appeals can be resolved, and resolving them can take time, perhaps more than a year. Everyone who sends in a Claim Form will be informed of the progress of the Settlement. Please be patient.
If you are a Class Member who wishes to participate in the Settlement but believes the Settlement Terms are unfair, you can object to the Settlement. To object, you must send a letter to the Settlement Administrator explaining why you think the Court should not approve the Settlement. This letter must say that you object to the Columbia Gas Settlement, and include: (1) your name; (2) address at which you lived on September 13, 2018, and, if different, your current address, and your email address; (3) telephone number; (4) signature; (5) documentation establishing your status as a Class Member; (6) the specific factual or legal reasons why the Settlement should not be approved; (7) whether you will appear or testify at the Final Approval Hearing; and (8) if you are represented by an attorney, any class action settlements your attorney objected to in the last three years. This letter must be mailed to the Settlement Administrator at Columbia Gas Settlement, c/o Settlement Administrator, PO Box 58729, Philadelphia, PA 19102-8729, postmarked by no later than December 10, 2019.
You do not need to hire an attorney to submit an objection on your behalf; however, if you choose to do so at your own expense, that attorney must: (1) file a notice of appearance with the Court by no later than December 10, 2019; (2) file a sworn declaration attesting to their representation of the Class Member on whose behalf the objection is being filed; and (3) satisfy on behalf of the Class Member all substantive requirements for objection described in this Question. Objections cannot be made on behalf of multiple Class Members, each Class Member who wishes to object must submit an individual objection as described above. While the Court will consider your views, you cannot ask the Court to order a different settlement; the Court can only approve or reject the Settlement. If the Court denies approval, no Settlement payments will be sent out and the lawsuit will continue.
Unless the Court directs otherwise, any Class Member who fails to comply with the requirements for objecting will not be able to object to the Settlement, will not be heard on any such objection and/or will not be able to appeal from the Court’s disposition of this Settlement. Objectors must still comply with the deadlines for filing Claims if they wish to participate in the Settlement.
The Court will hold a Final Approval Hearing on February 27, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. at the Essex County Superior Court, 56 Federal Street, Salem, Massachusetts 01970. At this hearing, the Court will consider whether the Settlement Agreement and proposed Settlement is a fair, reasonable and adequate resolution of the lawsuit. If there are timely and properly submitted objections, the Court will consider them and any response Plaintiffs and Columbia Gas may have to those objections. The Court may listen to people who have asked to speak at the hearing. Unless you have objected to the Settlement and asked to speak at the Final Approval Hearing, it is not necessary for you to attend to receive a Settlement payment. At or after the hearing, the Court will decide whether to approve the Settlement. The Court will also decide how much Class Counsel and Named Plaintiffs will be paid from the Settlement Fund, and will make an award for approved litigation, notice and settlement administration costs. If the Court ultimately does not approve the Settlement, or if the Court’s approval is reversed on appeal or the Settlement Agreement is terminated, then the Settlement will become null and void. If the Settlement becomes null and void, the case will proceed as though the Settlement Agreement was never entered into.
If you have any questions visit the Contact section or if you want to review documents that been filed in this case visit the Documents section of this website. All current dates and deadlines are available on this website, although dates may be subject to change with approval of the Court. You may also contact the Settlement Administrator by phone at 1-833-927-0819 or email at info@ColumbiaGasExplosionSettlement.com. Do not contact Class Counsel or the Court to request any additional information.