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The law firms who negotiated the $143 million settlement of a class action lawsuit with Columbia Gas for the 2018 Merrimack Valley natural gas explosions are seeking $23.595 million in fees and another $4.29 million for expenses, according to court records.

The lawyers filed a 148-page document in Essex Superior Court and have asked Superior Court Judge James F. Lang to approve the agreement at a hearing set for Oct. 7. The document, for the first time, provides the dollar amount in fees to be paid to the lawyers.

“Counsel for the plaintiffs and the settlement class intend to apply for an award of attorneys’ fees of no greater than $23,595,000, representing 16.5 percent of the settlement fund,’’ the attorneys wrote. “Class counsel intend to request reimbursement of costs and expenses...no greater than $4,290,000, representing 3 percent” of the fund.


Lang has to approve the agreement and the lawyers fees.

Columbia Gas and its parent company, NiSource, have agreed to the $143 million settlement, according to records. It is separate from the $80 million the utility has agreed to pay to Lawrence, North Andover, and Andover directly, the records show.

The updated agreement was filed after the National Transportation and Safety Board released investigative findings that a “weak engineering management” system at Columbia Gas was at the root of the Sept. 13, 2018 incident that caused 130 fires and explosions in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, killing one person and injuring two dozen more.

In a joint statement, co-lead counsel Frank Petosa from Morgan & Morgan, John Roddy of Bailey & Glasser, and Elizabeth Graham of Grant & Eisenhofer said town meetings in both English and Spanish will be held in the three communities “to talk to people about the settlement and claims process, and to answer any questions class action members may have.”


The Heffler Claims Group is set to operate the fund, review the claims, and determine where they rank among six levels of “disruption,’’ according to the filing. “Your payment will be based on how severely your life was disrupted,” including proximity to a fire or explosion, household size, duration kept out of their home, property damage, and service disruption.

The agreement sets out six cash payout ranges.

• “Nominal” disruption up to $50.

• “Some” disruption up to $250.

• “Minor” disruption up to $1,000.

• “Moderate” disruption up to $2,500.

• “Significant” disruption up to $5,000.

• “Major” disruption up to $15,000.

Payments already made by Columbia Gas may impact the size of the payouts from the settlement fund, but not if the person receives a lump sum payment, according to the settlement.

Once approved by the court, an estimated 175,000 people and businesses from the impacted communities can apply for reimbursement, regardless of whether they were Columbia Gas customers or not, according to the proposed settlement.

The settlement covers “all persons who resided, owned property, or owned a business in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover” on Sept. 13, 2018, and anyone who suffers “emotional distress, regardless if they develop some physical manifestations as a result of that emotional distress” such as insomnia, loss of appetite, headaches, or digestive trouble.

Once Lang gives preliminary approval, critics can go into court and object to the agreement, record show. No payments will be made until Lang finalizes the agreement.


Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.