Friday, December 03, 2010

Mary DeVany Wins Appeal of Censure in Formaldehyde Case

Mary DeVany, the industrial hygienist who was the Sierra Club volunteer who gave us expert advice and testified in Congress regarding the flawed CDC study that indicated the formaldehyde levels found in the FEMA trailers were acceptable, recently won a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals victory for a censure from Federal Judge Englehardt.

Mary was chosen by the plaintiff attorneys to test more than five thousand FEMA trailers for the lawsuits by former FEMA trailer occupants against FEMA and the trailer manufacturers. Mary’s testing found very high levels of formaldehyde in the trailers in Hope, AR, Hattiesburg, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and other locations throughout the Gulf.

Englehardt has been extremely pro FEMA, pro trailer manufacturers, and pro formaldehyde (which should be no surprise as he is “very, very good friends” with the formaldehyde Senator, David Vitter). Englehardt summarily dismissed all the FEMA mobile home occupants from the lawsuits saying the mobile homes’ formaldehyde was regulated by HUD. This was after hundreds of tests had proven the high formaldehyde levels (and probably lack of compliance with the HUD rules) in the FEMA mobile homes. The judge also dismissed FEMA as a defendant, despite the proof that FEMA knew about the high formaldehyde levels early on, and conspired to cover it up.

Then the judge went after Mary, and gave her a censure for making a statement in a totally unrelated workman’s comp case in Washington State in which she made an error in describing the multi district FEMA cases. It was really bizarre that the defendant attorneys dug so deep into Mary’s background and this was the only thing they could find—something that really had no bearing whatsoever on the case.

When the judge gave the censure he knocked Mary out as a witness in the cases, saying if the plaintiff attorneys put her on, he would state that jurors should not trust her testimony. This action impacted not just these thousands of cases, but Mary’s career.

Mary fought back, filed an appeal, and the Fifth Circuit recently vacated the censure. Functionally (and legally), it is as though the order never happened. It is really, really wrong that Mary had to spend a large amount of money to fight off a federal judge appointed to the bench on the recommendation of the formaldehyde senator.

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