YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A hearing will be held Friday in federal court to determine how class action lawsuits filed in the wake of the East Palestine train derailment case should proceed.

U.S. Judge Benita Y. Pearson issued an order Friday in the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio for a hearing on how to appoint an interim attorney to oversee the class action lawsuits, to devise a plan on how the cases should be structured and a status report on the current cases.

As of Friday, 29 lawsuits have been filed over the Feb. 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine, which spilled some of the chemicals the cars were carrying.

A few days after the train derailed, the chemicals, which were still in the rail cars, were burned off rather than removed to prevent an explosion. Pictures of the resulting plume of smoke, which caused an inversion of clouds, have been broadcast across the country.

Those who have filed suit have almost universally said in their complaints that the derailment has released toxic chemicals in the air and water that will have an adverse effect on their health, residences and businesses.

Authorities ordered an evacuation of an area about a mile wide around the area of the derailment for several days, which also affected residents across the border in Beaver County, Pa.

Judge Pearson March 8 had ordered attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the case to submit their views on how the cases should be consolidated.

The plaintiffs in the cases are seeking damages to compensate them for lost income, health expenses and stress.

A class action lawsuit is when a person or a group files a lawsuit against another entity, or entities, accusing them of the same course of conduct.

If a judge is satisfied that all the requirements have been met, then they can designate a case as a class action. People who may have been affected by the alleged conduct in the class action are usually notified of the amended complaint and have an opportunity to participate or opt-out.

Damages to be paid are either negotiated or determined at trial. Those who are part of the class action lawsuit typically have the same amount of damages.

The hearing will be conducted via Zoom, according to Friday’s order.