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Plaintiff in Richmond fire class action lawsuit shares story, hopeful for the future

Richmond Fire.jpg
Posted at 7:36 PM, Apr 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-23 15:30:58-04

RICHMOND — Smoke may have cleared from a large industrial fire in Richmond, but fear and concern are still burning on the minds of residents almost two weeks later.

“We’re concerned about our kids breathing in that stuff. We don’t know what it is we’re breathing in," Roscoe Holder said.

Holder is one of the roughly 2,000 people who had to evacuate their homes as a result of the fire at the plastic recycling facility on April 11.

His four-year-old son has cerebral palsy and says being forced to leave his home was dangerous.

“He has all this equipment we’re supposed to use for him every day and with us not being at home, we can’t really use it," Holder said.

On Thursday, two Richmond residents and a business filed a class action lawsuit against the property owners, Seth Smith and Cornerstone Trading Group.

According to the lawsuit, residents experienced adverse health effects like breathing complications, headaches, dizziness, skin rashes and chest pain.

Some were unable to go to work, resulting in loss of income. Area businesses were forced to close which diminished profit.

“Our concern, and the reason for bringing this lawsuit, is that we knew this was going to happen. This was a fire that was going to happen. It was a matter of when, not if, it happened," Attorney Trevor Crossen said.

WRTV previously reported that the city cited Smith and Cornerstone Trading following a 2019 inspection that found fire hazards.

Crossen says the defendants were negligent by failing to address “ultra-hazardous conditions” within the facility.

"Ultimately the goal is to get people who’ve been adversely affected here in Richmond compensation for their injuries and damages, but also talk and meet with the powers that are in the city of Richmond and try to head off any accident like this in this small community," Crossen said.

Crossen believes the city of Richmond is culpable, but says there are a few hoops to work through before they can name city in the lawsuit.

"They require us to file a tort claim notice in order to alert the city, state and other political risk entities about our lawsuit and what we’re claiming. They then get an opportunity to investigate to see if they have any culpability. They’ll issue a letter, either denying liability, which is what they do 99% of the time, or they’ll accept responsibility," Crossen said.

WRTV asked about how much compensation they’re seeking — we’re told the money amount takes time to iron out.

This entire legal process is estimated to take between a 18 to 30 months.

WRTV Investigates reached out to both Smith and his attorney on Friday about the class action lawsuit. We are still waiting to hear back.

If you or anyone you know has been impacted by the fire, you’re asked to contact Attorney Ben Felton with Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz at 765-983-3500 or Trevor Crossen with Crossen Law Firm at 317-827-7264.