Some Real Help for Elkhart County, Indiana

By September 29, 2009Briefly Legal, Economy, General

Twice this year President Obama has traveled to Elkhart County, Ind., to promote his economic policies, first to the city of Elkhart on February 9 and then the nearby community of Wakarusa on August 5. Northeastern Indiana makes for a good backdrop for speeches on the economy since Elkhart County has 16 percent unemployment, worst in the state.

The region has been especially hard hit because it’s the nation’s center of travel trailer manufacturing, with several major companies doing business there. High fuel prices followed by tight credit and then the recession have just hammered the industry.

With all due respect for the President’s policies, the area just got excellent news on the economic front last week from the U.S. court system. On September 24, a jury in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, rejected the first of at least 30 lawsuits against trailer manufacturers who sold their products to FEMA in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

From The Associated Press:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal jury on Thursday rejected a New Orleans family’s claims that the government-issued trailer they lived in after Hurricane Katrina was defective and exposed them to dangerous [formaldehyde] fumes.

The jury decided that a trailer made by Gulf Stream Coach Inc. and occupied after the 2005 hurricane by Alana Alexander and her son, Christopher Cooper, 12, was not “unreasonably dangerous” in its construction.

The jury also concluded that Fluor Enterprises, which had a contract to install trailers for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was not negligent in doing so. The government was not a defendant in this first of several “bellwether” trials.

Last year the House Oversight and Investigations Committee, then chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), held a hearing to drag the trailer manufacturers into the mud for supposedly dangerous manufacturing practices — charges the manufacturers have always forcefully rejected. The hearing built upon already one-sided media coverage that also served the interests of the trial lawyers suing the businesses.

This is just one jury verdict, but the message must be very, very encouraging to the people of Elkhart County, and especially those involved in the trailer industry: The companies built safe products that met consumers’ demand, and when responding to the Katrina disaster, they maintained their high standards.

Now that would be a good topic for a nationally televised speech.

Note: The RV trade industry publication/website “RV Business” did a thorough job covering the trial, and kudos to them.

Leave a Reply