Frequently Asked Questions
Throughout the Porter Ranch area, residents are concerned about their health and safety following the massive SoCal Gas leak. Many have also begun to question their legal options.
After fielding so many questions from local residents, we recognized the common themes and concerns of our local community. In an effort to provide you with essential information, we have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions. If you still have questions or would like to discuss your legal options, please contact us at 818.605.7776.
Are we entitled to legal representation?
—Yes. Owen Patterson & Owen, along with The Law Offices of Shawna Nazari, and Schimmel & Parks will be joining forces to work on your behalf. Together, we have filed suit against Southern California Gas Company. The lawsuit alleges that SoCalGas and its parent company, Sempra Energy, acted negligently, causing thousands to become sick and/or relocate out of the direct area.
In an effort to provide you with the information and representation you deserve, we are offering free consultations. Contact us at 818.605.7776 or through our website www.justiceforporterranch.com.
Will this be a class action lawsuit or a mass tort lawsuit?
— This will be a mass tort lawsuit. We are a group of personal injury law firms dedicated to protecting the individual and each person will have his or her own case. A class action is a specialized type of lawsuit, in which a case is filed on behalf of an entire group. The compensation recovered in a class action is split between all members of the group. A mass tort lawsuit, such as this, allows a single attorney, or group of attorneys, to represent multiple parties individually. In this case, the investigation and research into the Porter Ranch natural gas leak is being conducted our group of attorneys, and the resulting information will be shared among all of the individual cases. Then, each case will take into consideration the specific circumstances of each individual case. Any resulting compensation from this mass tort lawsuit will awarded to each plaintiff individually.
Both Owen Patterson & Owen and Schimmel & Parks have extensive experience representing clients in mass tort lawsuits. Combined, we have recovered billions of dollars in rewards for those who have been injured as a result of negligent actions.
What are the most common health problems being reported by the Porter Ranch residents?
—Since the October 23, 2015 discovery of the gas leak at the SoCal Gas Aliso Canyon Facility, thousands of Porter Ranch residents have reported a variety of neurological, gastrointestinal, and respiratory health concerns, including:
- Light headed or dizziness
- Brain fog / Blackouts
- Severe coughing
- Respiratory problems, such as sneezing, flu-like symptoms, asthma
- Nose bleeds or scabs in nose
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rashes/skin issues
- Eye irritation and vision problems
- Female health issues (excessive bleeding)
- Increased hair loss in women
- Mood changes, such as increased anxiety or irritability
- Sleep difficulties including lack of sleep, too much sleep, and lethargy
- Teeth and gum problems, with bleeding or swollen gums being most common
Could this exacerbate my underlying health conditions, such as COPD, asthma, emphysema, migraines, or vertigo?
— Yes. Each case is unique and must be examined individually. Be sure to communicate any pre-existing health concerns to your attorney or case manager, so we can be sure you are receiving the proper medical care and so we can obtain your medical history. In order to receive full compensation for all new injuries and the exacerbation of any pre-existing ones, it is essential for us to be aware of all your symptoms.
Will I lose my ability to join the lawsuit if I relocate away from Porter Ranch?
— No, and we encourage you to relocate. It is not clear what the long-term effects of the gas leak may be, and it is essential to protect your health. Even if you relocate, you can still be a part of the lawsuit.
Is there a specific geographical location that is considered the “affected area”? Has your firm mapped out the geographical location of the affected areas?
— No. There are no defined geographical areas as of now. Therefore, if you are experiencing symptoms and live in the general area, you may be entitled to compensation.
If I accept the gas money or relocation assistance from SoCalGas, do I waive my lawsuit rights?
— No. However, it is essential to have your attorney review any documents before you sign them.
Should I be seen by a doctor or physician?
— Yes. Both for your own health and to create a paper trail that documents your ailments and physical symptoms, it is critical for you to be seen by a doctor. Make sure you report every symptom, no matter how small, even if it occurred a couple of months ago. Keep in mind, the gas leak was reported on October 23, 2015 and may have actually occurred earlier. If you had, for example, nosebleeds in November and headaches in December, it is essential to report both of them to your doctor.
Should I document my symptoms and experiences?
— Yes. While we don’t require you to do so, we definitely encourage it. We suggest keeping a journal of symptoms. Keep in mind, you will be asked to recall specific symptoms, dates, and facts throughout the next 12-18 months. It will be much easier to do this and will greatly benefit your case if you have specific instances written down.
Does the SoCal Gas leak affect nearby cities and towns?
— Yes. To what extent is not known at this time.
Do you have any one local here that we could meet and speak with?
— Yes, all three of our law firms are local, and Shawna Nazari lives in Porter Ranch herself. Please call 818.605.7776 to schedule an appointment.
SoCalGas has asked us to stay with family and offered to provide those family members with a W9. Is this legal?
— Yes. SoCalGas is doing this for tax purposes. The hotels that are housing relocated Porter Ranch residents go through a similar process.
Do we have to continue paying our children’s tuition if they are not going to school?
— Maybe. This depends on your contract with your school. Please consult with your child’s school directly.
What can we do for our pets? They are constantly vomiting/ill.
— Relocate and bring your pet to the vet. If your pets are getting sick, it is likely a sign that your home is in a dangerous zone. Just as it is important to have a doctor document your symptoms, it is critical for a vet to document the symptoms of your pets.
Do we have to keep paying utilities, even though we’ve relocated?
— Unfortunately at this time, you must continue paying your utilities. However, this may change now that Governor Brown has declared a state of emergency. Keep an eye out for increased utility costs. Porter Ranch residents are reporting a 100% increase in their gas bill since October. This information may be important to your case.
What is going to happen with real estate/property value?
— Based on past experience and what our experts are telling us, you can expect a moderate to severe decline in the value of your property. Many residents are calling to have any SoCalGas fines reinvested into the community to help property values recover, but this has not yet been established.
What is the timeline?
— The timeline isn’t set right now, but a typical case in Los Angeles Superior Court lasts anywhere from 18-24 months.
What does it mean when I sign the retainer?
— A retainer helps protect your right to get money back for many costs, including but not limited to:
- Past/future medical care
- Diminution on the value of your real estate
- Business interruption
- Loss of past/future income/earning capacity
- General damages (i.e., past and future pain/suffering, anxiety, depression, PTSD, inconvenience.)
- Incidental expenses as a result of being displaced.