YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — East Palestine is a small town of just over 4,700 souls.

But in the legal profession, it has attracted quite a large following.

In the wake of the Feb. 3 derailment of a train carrying hazardous chemicals and the resulting burn-off of those chemicals, the small town is at the center of several class action lawsuits where there are more lawyers than cases.

As of Tuesday, 18 claims have been filed in the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio and they have all been assigned to U.S. Judge Benita Y. Pearson.

There are 64 total attorneys representing the plaintiffs in those 17 cases, an average of over three and a half attorneys per case.

Of those 64 attorneys, just four are from the Mahoning Valley; one each from Boardman, Canfield, Wellsville and New Castle, Pa.

The case has garnered representation by attorneys from as far away as San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans and Boulder, Colorado. There are lawyers from New York City, Chicago and Nashville and also from places like Alton, Illinois, and Paducah, Kentucky, as well as Cleveland, Canton and Cincinnati.

Just Monday, a lawyer from Denham Springs, La., announced that he is making an appearance in one of the cases.

The complaints in the class action cases are almost the same: that Norfolk Southern, the operators of the train that derailed, were negligent in their duties and responsibilities in ensuring that the train could travel safely, and because of that, the train derailed and released deadly chemicals in the air, causing an evacuation of property and businesses around the site within a radius of one mile.

Those who filed suit allege environmental, physical and emotional damage and distress because of the derailment.

Christopher Peters, the C Blake McDowell Jr. Professor of Law at Akron University, said although the number of local lawyers handling the cases is small now, he expects their number to grow in the future.

Peters said local lawyers will not only be needed for logistical reasons but also because lawyers have to be licensed to practice in Ohio, even though the cases are in federal court.

Peters also said there are practical reasons as to why there are a lot of out-of-town lawyers involved. Often, they are from firms that have access to experts in several different fields. In one of the cases, the Pittsburgh-based lawyers are using a train derailment expert and a metallurgist.

These cases are also very complex and there may be a dearth of lawyers in the area that can handle them, Peters said. He did say when asked, however, that there probably are a few firms or attorneys who have jumped in because they are looking forward to the prospect of a large fee.

For those who are planning legal action, Peters said there are advantages and disadvantages to being part of a class action lawsuit.

In a class action, the judge determines the amount of a settlement that will be awarded to those who are in the affected class, and they will all get roughly the same amount of money.

For someone who may need compensation but whose injuries are not severe, being a part of the class could be to their benefit, Peters said.

But for someone who has been damaged greatly, they may want to take action on their own because their judgment will not be capped by the amount of damages awarded to people who are part of a class action, Peters said.

Peters said he expects the class action cases to be consolidated because there can not be more than one class action.

“There’s going to be some consolidation in the next couple of months,” Peters said.