Children are included as plaintiffs in the latest class action lawsuits alleging that negligence led to the Norfolk Southern derailment, fire, and chemical spill in East Palestine.

Two more class action complaints were filed Thursday in federal court, making a total of eight lawsuits against the railroad since the February 3 derailment that resulted in a mandatory evacuation.

One of the latest lawsuits was filed by the Baker Law Group of Columbus on behalf of two families, including that of Jessica Davis, her fiancée Gerald Heaton, and their seven and six-year-old sons.

The complaint gives the following account of what happened to members of the Heaton family who were at their East Highland Road home less than a mile from the derailment site:

On the night of the Train Derailment, February 3, 2023, on or around 9 PM or 10 PM, Jessica Heaton was the only individual awake in her home when she received an alert on her phone that she needed to evacuate her house immediately. Soon after, she received an automated phone call alerting her of the same. This call indicated that residents of East Palestine needed to evacuate immediately and if individuals did not have transportation, buses would be provided for evacuation.

Jessica Davis woke up Gerald Heaton. The two looked out of their home window and saw a fire ablaze.

At this time, residents were not told what occurred that necessitated the evacuation, but the alerts on Jessica Davis’s phone mentioned a gas station, Leake Oil. Accordingly, Jessica Davis assumed that there was a fire at Leake Oil that would resolve shortly thereafter.

Complying with the alerts requesting evacuations, Jessica Davis and Gerald Heaton woke up their children Bryce Heaton and Easton Heaton, ages 7 and 6 respectively, and got in the car to drive away from the fire.

The family did not know where to go or for how long they needed to be away from their home, so they drove around back roads and ultimately parked the car for several hours to get some rest.

During this time, an officer rang the family’s camera doorbell to confirm that the family had evacuated. Through the doorbell’s speaking features, Jessica Davis and Gerald Heaton remotely answered the doorbell to confirm to the officer that the family had evacuated their home.

Around 4 AM on Saturday, February 4, 2023, after speaking to other neighbors who went back to their homes, the family made the decision to return home because the family thought it was safe to return.

After returning home, Jessica Davis heard several loud explosions and saw the night sky erupt with fire and smoke on multiple occasions. Still, at this time, the family was not aware of the Train Derailment and subsequent fires that occurred therefrom.

After being home for a few hours in the morning of February 4, 2023, Jessica Davis awoke to her home smelling like chemicals. Around this time, a family member called Jessica Davis to explain that a train derailed, but the family still did not know about the any possible dangers of hazardous chemicals.

That day, on February 4, 2023, the whole family began experiencing headaches and sore throats. Bryce Heaton, who suffers from chronic asthma, also experienced some difficulty breathing. However, without knowing exactly the dangers of the Train Derailment, the family stayed in their home Saturday night.

Late on Sunday, February 5, 2023, on or around 8 PM or 9 PM, Jessica Davis was watching a press conference regarding the Train Derailment, when the individuals participating in the press conference urgently stated that the residents of East Palestine needed to evacuate immediately because the safety features of the train were failing, and explosions could occur at any time.

This was the first time Jessica Davis and her family were alerted of the imminent dangers of the Train Derailment. Accordingly, Jessica Davis and Gerald Heaton grabbed a few household necessities and their children, Bryce, and Easton Heaton, and left their dogs and their home to find quick safety with a family friend in Leetonia, Ohio.

Once in Leetonia, Ohio, after watching the news, the family learned that at this time, evacuations were mandatory, and individuals that did not evacuate East Palestine would be criminally charged.

The next morning, on Monday, February 6, 2023, the family was alerted that roads were soon going to be blocked entering East Palestine. Accordingly, Gerald Heaton quickly went home to retrieve the family’s two dogs.

Thereafter, from February 6, 2023, until February 10, 2023, the family stayed at various hotels for shelter. Originally the family stayed at the Davis Motel in North Lima, Ohio; however, after the toxic smell of chemicals continued to spread as the days passed, the family continued to move further away from the Train Derailment, ultimately staying in Lisbon, Ohio at the Days Inn.

Bryce and Easton’s school, East Palestine Elementary, was closed from Monday, February 6, 2023, until February 10, 2023; however, once the school reopened on Monday, February 13, 2023, Jessica Davis and Gerald Heaton were concerned about sending their children back to school, as the school building was used as a base for first responders reporting to the Train Derailment.

Upon arriving back home on February 10, 2023, the family’s entire home smelled like chemicals similar to the smell of nail polish remover.

Bryce Heaton suffered an asthma attack that required him to use his emergency inhaler. Gerald Heaton removed Bryce Heaton from the house temporarily while his symptoms occurred to get some fresh air.

Jessica Davis then began cleaning every surface in their home to attempt to clean it from any possible toxic contamination. Jessica Davis wiped the whole house down as there was a lot of dust throughout the interior of the house and sticky grey ash covering the exterior of the home.

Jessica Davis took both of her children, Bryce and Easton, to the children’s pediatrician on February 13, 2023, as the kids continued to have sore throats, headaches, and eye irritation. The pediatrician confirmed that the children were negative for Strep throat but that the symptoms could be from the Train Derailment and subsequent fires and explosions.

Gerald Heaton missed three days of work as a truck driver due to the Train Derailment and the family’s subsequent displacement.

To date, the family still continues to suffer as a result of the Train Derailment with physical symptoms, economic loss, and emotional distress.

The family is still being alerted by officials to not use their city tap water and only drink bottled water, and while the authorities are reporting that the air quality is safe, the family is concerned for their health as a result of the toxic exposure.

Bryce and Easton have also suffered psychological trauma as a result of the Train Derailment and have attended, and will continue to attend, counseling services for their emotional trauma.


The second complaint was filed Thursday by Sandusky law firm Murray & Murray on behalf of Kristin Battaglia and Laura Zuch-Battaglia of West High Street, East Palestine. Each woman has a minor son who are named as plaintiffs, as well as Zuch-Battaglia’s mother who is living at a Garfield Avenue nursing home.

The lawsuit says Norfolk Southern’s controlled release chemicals involved breaching each of five derailed tank cars containing vinyl chloride and draining the contents into nearby trenches. The material was then ignited, starting a fire meant to burn away the contents of  the cars, according to the complaint which described the resulting plume of smoke as “a mushroom cloud, creating apocalyptic images.”

The Murray & Murray complaint alleges that resident’s concerns still linger:

"Although mandatory evacuation orders have been lifted and residents have been told that it is safe to return to their homes, Plaintiffs and members of their class believe, with good reason, that the prospective dangers from the hazardous exposure are being grossly downplayed and that their health has been and is subjected to injurious toxins.”

Like the previously-filed six complaints, the latest two lawsuits ask that a judge declare them a class action that would allow others to join the lawsuits, none of which Norfolk Southern has yet responded to.