California Environmental Protection Unit prosecutors have reached a settlement with a local nursing home, according to a recent story from News Channel 5. The settlement agreement between prosecutors and the nursing home owners requires the payment of $225,000 by defendants. In addition to the settlement amount, defendants must pay and over $70,000 in costs and civil fines.
Defendants were cited for numerous violations in connection with their efforts to renovate the nursing home facility in 2012. It has been alleged that defendants did not commission a full survey, as required by law where asbestos is involved, and instead relied upon an incomplete operations report.
If defendants had conducted the required full inspection and survey, it would have revealed that the wallboard used in patient rooms contained asbestos. Without having a survey that revealed the presence of asbestos, defendants did not contact the local air pollution control district or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration prior to commencing renovations. The company also did not follow the legally required asbestos handling protocols and did not provide workers with the necessary safety equipment.
Prosecutors reported that, during the renovation, asbestos fibers were released into the air, and workers were exposed to the hazardous substance. It should be noted that this was the second time prosecutors had charged the same defendants with crimes pertaining to improper asbestos removal. The first case involved another nursing home owned by defendants and, in that case, the parties reached a $110,000 settlement.
Our Boston asbestos attorneys know asbestos is a deadly substance that must be handled properly. While it is considered somewhat safe when it is in a stable condition, the removal of asbestos must be handled with extreme caution. When an employer does not take steps to prevent workers and other members of the community from inhaling asbestos fibers, that employer has made a choice to risk the lives of others to save the company money.
This is never acceptable, and it is the reason that juries have awarded plaintiffs in mesothelioma litigation not only compensatory, but also punitive damages. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the law provides that compensatory damages are the normal remedy in a civil lawsuit. In other words, if a plaintiff wins at trial, defendants will be required to compensate the victims and their families for the harm caused.
Compensatory damages often include pain and suffering, lost wages, medical bills, and, in cases that result in death, funeral expenses. However, when a defendant has engaged in conduct that is shown as a complete disregard for the health and safety of others, the court may allow the plaintiff to seek and eventually recovery punitive damages. As we have discussed in other blog entries, punitive damages are designed to punish defendants for their wilful and wanton breach of the duty of care owed to plaintiffs.
While every case is different, and you should speak with your attorney about the facts of your particular situation, in the year 2012 when there is no doubt about the dangers of asbestos, and the fact that laws require certain safety measures to be taken, it would be hard to justify needlessly putting lives at risk to save money.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.
Monterey Co. prosecutors settle suit with Salinas nursing home over asbestos violations, September 11, 2014, News Channel 5 Kion
More Blog Entries:
EPA: Asbestos Clean-Up in Mining Town Homeowners’ Responsibility, August 17, 2014., Boston Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog