Lac Megantic Financial Settlement Doesn't Satisfy About 400 People

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MONTREAL — About 400 people are contesting the amount of money they have received from the $460-million Lac-Megantic settlement fund for victims and creditors of the 2013 rail disaster, the man overseeing the cash distribution said Monday.

Andrew Adessky said his firm, Richter, will begin responding to creditors within the next couple of weeks, adding that some of the challenges are valid and others are not.

Roughly 10 per cent of the 4,200 people who received cheques were not satisfied with their portion, said the court-appointed Adessky.

Victims have so far received half their expected payment for moral damages, Adessky explained, almost three years after a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Que., killing 47 people.

The second half will be distributed at a later date, he said.

"We are reviewing the contestations,'' Adessky said. "In some cases we agree with them, in others we need more information, and we will also go back to other folks and say we disagree. People have the right to appeal our (final) decision.''

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Firefighters douse blazes after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac-Megantic in Canada's Quebec province on July 6, 2013. (Photo: Francois Laplante-Delagrave/AFP via Getty Images)

About 25 companies accused of wrongdoing in the derailment agreed to pay into a settlement for victims and creditors. In turn, they received legal immunity against future claims related to the crash and explosion.

Of the $460 million in the fund, roughly $50 million was set aside for moral damages, which include claims related to post-traumatic stress disorder, bodily injury and inconveniences such as having to be evacuated from the explosion site.

Another $113 million has already been paid out for wrongful death claims, with little disagreement from victims.

Roughly $300 million has not yet been distributed and is destined for economic and insurance claims from people who lost businesses and jobs and from the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

Jeff Orenstein, a class action lawyer representing the victims, said he is still in discussions with Richter regarding the distribution of money for economic claims.

"We are still working those numbers out,'' he said. "We're having good, positive discussions.''

Canadian Pacific Railway is the only company accused of responsibility in the derailment that has not paid into the settlement fund.

It maintains it had nothing to do with the disaster.

Orenstein has filed a class action lawsuit against CP, on behalf of victims, and he said the next step is to have a notice of the suit published in newspapers.

The Quebec government has also filed a suit against CP, claiming $409 million in damages from the railway company.

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