Richmond: 5,000 More People Sue Chevron Over Refinery Fire

A new lawsuit was filed against Chevron on behalf of more than 5,000 people Monday seeking compensation for damage caused by the catastrophic fire at the company's refinery in Richmond a year ago.

The suit, filed jointly in Contra Costa County Superior Court by Richmond law firm R. Nicholas Haney and Texas-based Buzbee Law Firm, alleges that Chevron's "reckless conduct" caused the Aug. 6, 2012, blaze that sent toxic smoke into the air and 15,000 people to hospitals, jeopardizing the health of the entire Bay Area.

The two firms were hired by Bay Area civil rights attorney John Burris.

The Buzbee firm filed a similar lawsuit representing about 6,000 area residents against the oil company earlier this year.

The latest suit accuses Chevron of "putting profits over the
welfare of the community" and claims that this approach led to the fire that sent toxic smoke into the air.

The lawsuit seeks financial compensation, which a jury would determine at trial.

Nine claims for damages are named in the suit, including negligence, liability for ultra-hazardous activity, public nuisance and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The suit claims the oil company has a history of ignoring the
warning signs of corrosion in its crude oil unit, where a corroded pipe leaked and caught fire last August, sparking the larger blaze.

The city of Richmond filed a similar suit against Chevron earlier this month.

In a statement, Chevron spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie said, "We review each case based on its merits and defend as appropriate through the legal process."

She said she could not comment further on ongoing litigation.

On Aug. 5, the oil company agreed to pay $2 million in restitution and fines stemming from the fire to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the state Attorney General's Office.

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