Already, 4,872 people have joined the suit alleging misconduct and hazardous practices at a Chevron refinery in Richmond where lawyers said 19 fires, spills and explosions have taken place since 1989. In August, a rusty oil pipe burst, sparking an explosion and fire that blanketed the area in thick black smoke. Health officials estimate 15,000 people sought treatment for exposure to the smoke.
A Chevron representative noted a victims' assistance fund had been set up for those who had property loss or health problems resulting from the fire, making the lawsuit unnecessary, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday.
"We do not believe any lawsuits are necessary, and we will defend them vigorously," a company statement said.
The suit, filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court, will seek unspecified punitive damages, Oakland attorney John Burris said.