Students exposed to asbestos win $1.8 million for medical monitoring

25 Feb 2015 by under Legal

Gavel Scales of Justice American flag square 100x100 Students exposed to asbestos win $1.8 million for medical monitoringAfter exposing dozens of young victims to while on the job, nonprofit Firm Build’s three former executives must pay approximately $1.8 million in damages, according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner’s office.

Prosecutors said that at the time of the exposure, the students were employed by Firm Build to remove what it knew were asbestos-containing materials from a building. The students described a fog-like substance inside the building, causing dust to enter their nose and mouths. They reported experiencing frequent nose bleeds and chest pain. It wouldn’t be until later that they learned of the asbestos lurking in the building’s walls.

Asbestos is not dangerous if left intact, but when it is broken or crushed such as during renovation projects, it can release microscopic fibers that can be unintentionally inhaled or ingested. This type of exposure can lead to the development of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen or, sometimes, the heart. There is no known cure for mesothelioma. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s website says that if the asbestos is in good enough condition and intact, avoid disturbing it.

Monday’s announcement from U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill ordered executives Patrick Bowman, Rudy Buendia III and Joseph Cueller to pay the medical expenses of 65 individuals, the majority of whom were teenagers exposed to the carcinogenic asbestos while working in Castle Commerce Center’s Automotive Training Center. Adults also on site were exposed to the asbestos as well.

Merced County Deputy District Attorney Walter Wall believes the judgment to be one of the largest for an asbestos case in . All of the funds received from the three former executives are to keep the 65 individuals’ state of health protected for the remainder of their lives.

The men pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of violating the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants law, and pleaded no contest to state felony charges of “treating, handling or disposing of asbestos in a manner that caused an unreasonable risk of serious injury to the students, with reckless disregard for their safety,” according to a report in the Merced Sun-Star. Bowman, Buendia and Cueller were sentenced to between 24 to 27 months in federal prison for the crime.

“The health of these kids was sacrificed and compromised for financial gain by these defendants,” Wall said. “This award recognizes the gravity of the harm to these individuals with respect to their health. It’s a just reward because each one of those kids are going to have to (receive) medical monitoring and will worry about their health for the rest of their lives.”

Despite Monday’s verdict, many of the exposed high school students, now in their 20s, opted to file a civil case for undisclosed damages against the former three former executives. The case, which lists the Merced County Office of Education as a defendant as well, seeks damages ranging from possible injuries to emotional suffering.

Merced Sun-Star


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