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Case Western Reserve University hosting Saturday environmental law clinic in East Palestine

Community members attend a meeting at East Palestine High School on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Community members attend a meeting at East Palestine High School on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. Many residents have been seeking legal advice to see what rights they have in the aftermath of the accident.

A law clinic from Case Western Reserve University will be offering free legal advice in East Palestine on Saturday. The hope is to offer unbiased information to residents.

The University's Environmental Law Clinic is hosting the event with River Valley Organizing, Community Legal Aid, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services and the Ohio Environmental Council. There’s still a lot of unanswered questions in the community, including health concerns, Director Miranda Leppla said.

“Everyone should get a health screening if they’re able to now," Leppla said, "so they can get a baseline reading in case they were to have health problems down the road.”

Attorneys will also be able to answer questions about the legal process, providing guidance on if residents should join a class action lawsuit or hire their own lawyer, Leppla said.

“There’s also components of class actions where do you feel like you were made whole as a result of this and is this going to plan for the long-term health effects and impacts potential that could effect this community?," Leppla said.

There's also positive reasons to join a class action lawsuit, Leppla said.

“Like if you’re hiring your own lawyer, you’re going to have to presumably spend your own money or they’ll be paid from a settlement agreement or the case if you win it versus a class action where you don’t typically have to do a lot," Leppla said. "You may not be deposed.”

Ultimately, lawyers will be working to advise residents on what's best for them, Leppla said.

Unlike other previous legal clinics in East Palestine, none of the organizations involved with Saturday's clinic will benefit monetarily from the event, Leppla said.

"Because we don't have any financial stake in this and neither does Fair Shake or Ohio Environmental Council or Community Legal Aid, we're coming there to provide assistance without any expectation of any kind of monetary benefit from this," Leppla said. "We're just really trying to provide as much information as we can."

The clinic will take place on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at First United Presbyterian Church of East Palestine. Walk ins are welcome.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.