By Sarah Mansheim\r\n\r\nTwo separate lawsuits have been filed in the Circuit Court of Greenbrier County against the company whose truck dumped nearly 4,000 gallons of diesel into an Anthony Creek tributary.\r\n\r\nThe first is a class action complaint filed by Webb Law Centre on behalf of The Bakery, The Irish Pub and William-Walton Inc, doing business as Food and Friends, against Woodford Transport, LLC, whose driver wrecked the diesel tanker on Rt. 92. According to Webb Law Centre attorney Rusty Webb, those businesses are not the only ones who stand to gain from this suit. In fact, says Webb, should the court certify the class and a judgment is achieved, any business that was affected by the spill, and the subsequent health department mandate that restaurants close their doors until water was restored, will qualify to apply for damages.\r\n\r\nWebb calls the businesses named in the suit \u201cthe courageous few stepping up for everybody,\u201d acknowledging that some of those business owners are now taking flack for filing the suit. \u201cLewisburg is a tolerant town,\u201d says Webb, \u201cso I kind of expected some discussion about the litigation.\u201d But, he insists, unless a person has walked in the shoes of a business owner or a person who has lost wages due to the forced shutdown, perhaps they should cut those litigants some slack.\r\n\r\nIn fact, Webb says he expects those business owners will be celebrated if money is returned to all affected businesses in Lewisburg, Ronceverte and other outlying areas affected by the spill, because owners of The Bakery, the Irish Pub and Food and Friends are not the only ones who will see relief if the suit is successful - anyone who has a claim to the lost business or wages would qualify to apply for damages. That means people like waitresses and waiters, cooks and other restaurant employees who were forced to take a day off could recoup their wages.\r\n\r\nAnother similar lawsuit has been filed by the law offices of E. Lavoyd Morgan Jr. and Associates and Robert J. Frank and Associates who are representing plaintiffs Kristie L. Bennett, Tony Hill, along with his businesses Show Your Colors and Hill Properties LLC; and TWB Odyssey LLC, doing business as The Wild Bean and Roger Dolan Jr. individually.\r\n\r\nBennett, a childcare worker, is seeking recompense for forced time off when the daycare facility where she works was closed due to the water crisis. Hill\u2019s Show Your Colors was also forced to shut down during the outage, and the Wild Bean\u2019s plight followed the restaurateurs in the Webb lawsuit: they were shut down by the health department.\r\n\r\nMorgan\u2019s office confirms what Webb said regarding the plaintiffs: \u201cSuch suits must be brought by \u2018representative plaintiffs\u2019 on behalf of the class. Without individuals brave enough to serve as class representative, persons injured by such events would have few mechanisms by which to recover from their losses. The suit seeks to have a class certified so that all similarly affected people in Lewisburg may be joined,\u201d said Denise Pettijohn, an associate in Morgan\u2019s office.\r\n\r\nPettijohn addressed the backlash by saying, \u201cThese attacks have called class representatives greedy, self serving or out to collect a payday. Nothing could be farther from the truth. These individuals and businesses are trying to assist our community. Many in the retail and hospitality industries could not work for several days as a direct result of the diesel spill. Many of these people already live paycheck to paycheck, and that loss of income was devastating.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe individuals and businesses that are named in this lawsuit are local members of the community who have volunteered to come forward, so that everyone damaged by this spill can be made whole. They understand that for many people, those few days out of work were actually devastating, further straining already limited budgets. They should be cheered for fighting for others, not vilified,\u201d said Pettijohn.\r\n\r\n\u201cRemember,\u201d she said, regarding the portion of the lawsuit that names the tanker driver, Kenneth Pritt, individually, \u201cthe Freedom Industries spill was initially thought to be the result of an \u2018accidental\u2019 equipment malfunction until it was discovered that the company was grossly negligent in maintaining that equipment.\u201d Greenbrier County Sheriff Jan Cahill told the Mountain Messenger last week that the investigation into the accident is ongoing. The suit sites negligence on Pritt\u2019s behalf.\r\n\r\nBoth law offices that have filed the complaints in Greenbrier County Circuit Court are urging anyone who was financially affected by the spill to contact their offices in order to add their name to the class. By getting a full view of the scope of the people and businesses affected, they said, they will be better able to get a better view of the damages.\r\n\r\nThe Mountain Messenger left phone messages with Woodford Transportation to allow them an opportunity to comment on the spill, cleanup and lawsuits, but our calls were not returned.