FEMA sends extra settlement checks to plaintiffs in formaldehyde suit

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 6, 2013 at 7:33 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 19 at 11:23 AM

Thanh Truong / Eyewitness News
Email: ttruong@wwltv.com | Twitter: @thanh412

NEW ORLEANS -- Debra Coleman was among tens of thousands of Gulf Coast residents who joined class action lawsuits against manufacturers of FEMA trailers delivered in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The plaintiffs claimed dangerous levels of formaldehyde caused health complications.

Coleman said she and her husband spent more than a year in a FEMA trailer as they rebuilt their Gentilly home.

"I had asthma and it would get worse in the trailer. My husband would get headaches. His nose would run in that trailer," said Coleman.

The manufacturers eventually settled. Many of the plaintiffs recently received their settlement checks. Coleman's check arrived last Friday. The amount was $33.02

"I'm not disputing that," Coleman said. "I know it was a class action thing and the lawyers were going to get a lot of the money."

The concern Coleman has is the second batch of settlement checks she and her husband received. The information appeared to be correct -- the same dollar amount, the same address, the same first name. But the last names were wrong.

"I'm Debra Coleman. The second check was to Debra MacDonald. My husband got his check. The first one was to him, Clarence Coleman. But the second one was to a Clarence McDaniel," said Coleman.

She said she deposited the check made out to her with no issue but was unsure of what to do with the second round of checks she and her husband received. She tried calling the phone number on the back of the check but says she got no reply.

Coleman said she knows of at least a dozen other people who joined the class action lawsuit who also received two checks.

"It's rather odd that they would receive a second check with the wrong last name. Something is going on here obviously," said Cynthia Albert of the Better Business Bureau.

Albert said she's unsure if the multiple issuing of checks is an administrative mistake or part of a scam.

Fake checking scams, she said, are fairly common but often entail much larger amounts of money. While the checks involved may seem insignificant, Albert said possible mistakes on a mass scale can add up.

"That could be a tremendous amount of money, and that's why I think anybody receiving something like this should report it immediately," said Albert.

The Better Business Bureau urges people to go to this website and look under the FAQ section to find out what to do in order to report issues with settlement checks. It also reminds people to avoid giving out personal information when dealing with unknown entities.

FEMA did not respond to request for comment.

 

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