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Thursday
Apr302015

GOODBYE VIETNAM...... vs. AGENT ORANGE LEGACY

The Vietnam War retains an incredible power in the American conscience, people still want to hear about Vietnam, especially in light of the ongoing war with Iraq. There is another chapter from Vietnam — the legacy of the Agent Orange litigation. This is the story about Vietnam that shows courage, moral conviction and heroic action of a Vietnam Veteran – Paul Reutershan.

Vietnam Veteran Paul Reutershan sued Dow Chemical for $10 million dollars in 1978. Paul was the sole plaintiff and Dow Chemical was the sole defendant in the case originally filed in New York State. Paul's lawsuit became the lawsuit to amend to create a plaintiff class of veterans and a defendant class of subcontractors to Dow Chemical as manufacturers of Agent Orange products.

According to his sister Jane Reutershan, "The problem was that the lawsuit did not belong to Vietnam Veteran leadership. The lawsuit belonged to my brother. My family never signed away my brother's rights to his lawsuit after he died. It was my brother in July of 1978 who started one-party litigation against Dow Chemical Company. Paul spent the last year of his life informing Vietnam Veterans about their rights."

On May 7, 1984 the largest chemical companies in this country, including Dow Chemical, Monsanto, Hercules, Diamond Shamrock, Rhodia, Inc., and North American Philips, were allowed to settle billions of dollars in claims from Vietnam Veterans across the country for only $180 million dollars, without any admittance of fault. This was the largest product liability class-action settlement in American history at that time.

In 1984, Kenneth Feinberg, a lawyer in Washington, D.C. was appointed to distribute the $180 million dollar Agent Orange settlement fund to Vietnam Veterans who were left with unfathomable, devastating, life-changing illnesses. The 67-year-old Feinberg made a bundle overseeing the settlement distribution -- he has since made a fortune as The Settlement King....... including his latest venture with Boston Strong -- without ever acknowledging Paul Reutershan, the Vietnam Veteran who started the Agent Orange class-action suit.

In 1984, a judge appointed Feinberg to distribute money from a $180 million settlement fund for Vietnam Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange -- his work on that project got notice from President George W. Bush's administration -- Feinberg was then asked to manage the 9/11 Victims' Compensation Fund. Feinberg has since made a fortune distributing funds on the backs of Vietnam Veterans who are still waiting for compensation for the devastation that Agent Orange reeked upon their lives.

The Agent Orange Settlement was a Sell-Out. The failure of the Agent Orange settlement to reach Vietnam Veterans and the conversion of Paul Reutershan's lawsuit into a class-action case destroyed the capacity of hundreds of thousands of lawsuits by Vietnam Veterans to address the real costs of the Agent Orange Legacy. "Paul would never have allowed his lawsuit to become a class action case." said his sister Jane. "There was never an agreement signed by Paul Reutershan to allow his lawsuit to become a class-action case.

Lawsuits were filed against Kenneth Feinberg, Special Master of the 9/11 Fund — former Master of the Courts in the Agent Orange class-action fund. The lawsuits share many of the issues in the distribution of the Agent Orange Settlement Fund that have evolved in the distribution of the 9/11 Fund— the definition of a victim, the role of the attorneys and court administrators, and compensation determinations for victims, bureaucrats and attorneys.

Many in the Vietnam Veteran community shared great sadness that Jane passed away on February 9, 2003 after struggling for years with Carcinoid Syndrome. Jane’s contribution to the Agent Orange legacy about the disgraceful settlement is supported by an army of veterans ready to speak out about the unfair distribution of funds from the class-action lawsuit, and to make sure that Paul and Jane are not forgotten. Paul Reutershan's family received only $3,400 dollars.

"I had to beg and fight for eight months until the Court finally decided to give my mother the survivor benefit of $3,400, which was a total disgrace," said Jane. "It took me months working through Bernard Richland, a friend of Judge Weinstein appointed The Special Master of Appeals, for my mother to be made an exception and therefore allowed to collect $3,400 for the death of my brother, her only son. After waiting until 1989, five years after the settlement was announced, my mother received only $3,400." The Decision On Appeal letter, signed by Judge Jack Weinstein, made her mother the exception for survivor benefits stating that the reason they were giving her the money was because of Paul and his involvement in the issue.

Ken Feinberg -- shame on you.....donate your settlement fees to the grandchildren of Vietnam Veterans who are still suffering from Agent Orange, give Paul Reutershan his legacy back.

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