Photo by Stephen George
Photo by Stephen George

Representatives of GE and its insurer have been reaching out to residents who live near Appliance Park to discuss loss claims and offer potential reimbursements for damages from the massive fire that engulfed and destroyed a warehouse on the company’s 900-acre south Louisville campus earlier this month.

GE and Electric Insurance Company, a commercial insurer owned by GE that began in 1966 to insure company operations, set up a hotline for residents to make claims two days after the April 3 fire. The companies also sent letters to households within 2 miles of the park with information about recovery efforts and to instruct them how to file loss claims with the insurer, said GE spokeswoman Kim Freeman.

During the past several days, representatives of the companies also have been meeting with nearby residents, taking photos, examining receipts, and in some cases offering anywhere from $350 to $1,200 to reimburse for damages, according to a source with knowledge of the efforts who asked to remain anonymous. Those efforts are taking place in the Newburg neighborhood and surrounding areas, the source said.

The fire sent thick black smoke, ashes and debris into the air for miles beyond the park. Officials with MetroSafe said at the time they had detected potentially dangerous chemicals in the air near the site, including hydrochloric acid gas. The 700,000-square-foot warehouse had been used to store plastics, among other products and supplies.

Fallout from the fire prompted a class-action lawsuit, filed April 6 by attorneys for Alex Ruiz, who lives near the park, that could ultimately include 17,000 households in the area. The suit claims “toxic and hazardous substances and fumes” caused damage for neighbors and sent particulate matter into the air and water. It names GE and Derby Industries, a Louisville company that leased about 450,000 square feet of space in the now-collapsed Building 6, and accuses both of neglect.

Attorneys often will file such claims quickly, both to be first in line if other suits are filed and to reach potential plaintiffs before a defendant can contact them about losses. Alex Davis, one of the attorneys representing Ruiz, declined to comment for this story.

In the loss-claim form it is circulating to residents who live near Appliance Park, Electric Insurance references the lawsuit and instructs anyone who has talked with an attorney about it to have their lawyer get in touch. The form, which is posted below, also advises potential claimants who have not spoken with a lawyer to do so, although by signing the form, those claimants also must swear they haven’t already consulted an attorney:

By signing and dating this form you agree that the foregoing information you provided is a true statement of the cause of this loss; you are not represented by a lawyer regarding your claim; and you understand that you have the right to discuss your claim with your own lawyer, and that GE encourages you to seek the advice of your own lawyer.

Representatives of Electric Insurance did not return multiple requests for comment. GE’s Freeman did not comment directly on the details of any specific claims or potential compensation from GE.

“We will review each claim on a case-by-case basis and support our neighbors as appropriate based on their individual circumstances,” Freeman said.

It is not uncommon for companies to directly compensate residents who live near facilities when a catastrophic event occurs, even after a lawsuit has been filed. After the West Point train derailment in Hardin County in 2012, Paducah & Louisville Railway Inc. paid out direct claims to affected residents that totaled more than $1 million. Incidentally, the same law firm that won a settlement in that case — Jones Ward PLC — is representing Ruiz in the GE Appliance Park fire suit.

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Stephen George
Stephen George is news editor of Insider Louisville. He is a former editor of LEO Weekly and the Nashville City Paper, and a former news editor of the Nashville Scene. He has written for various other news and culture publications and is happy to be back in Louisville.