Asbestos-exposed Tenants Not Happy with Payout
The owners of a Denver apartment complex where tenants were exposed to asbestos during a renovation project have been ordered to pay 29 of some 200 displaced tenants a sum in the excess of $200,000 for the inconveniences they faced when removed from their apartments.
Those who were not part of the settlement are now feeling slighted and don’t believe the whole settlement process is fair.
According to a story aired on the local Denver CBS affiliate, the commotion began when WillMax Capital Management – owners of the Overlook Apartments – announced they were going to do some construction.
“They were going to tear out the floors, sand them down, and make them smooth cement,” said resident Jack Girard.
The glue underneath the removed carpet contained asbestos, and Girard told the news station that workers sanded the glue off the floors for a month before anyone was alerted to the asbestos problem.
Someone finally sent a photo to the Colorado Department of Public Health, showing a cloud of asbestos dust in one of the hallways. The agency came out to investigate and immediately closed the building and demanded the tenants leave.
This happened in January 2014.
“We lost our belongings, we lost our possessions, we lost everything we owned. We had to find new housing. So, we needed to replace what we had,” Girard said.
So, the residents joined together and filed a class action suit against WillMax. The settlement from that suit is confidential.
However, Girard said they would have waited had they known that the U.S. Attorney’s office was going to move ahead and file charges against the company and one of its top officials.
In the end, WillMax was sentenced to set up a health monitoring fund (for 5 years of screenings) and pay $217,805.62 in restitution that would be split up between 29 residents.
The other residents, who already received funds from the class-action suit, are exempt from this particular restitution.
That’s not fair, says Girard. Furthermore, he believes the money and the health screenings are too little, too late.
“What I understood is that one person, out of all of us, out of all 200 (evacuated residents), got additional money today,” Girard said. “With asbestos exposure you can get mesothelioma and you don’t see the signs for 10 to 15 years. For the rest of our lives we’re going to have to worry about this.”
In actuality, it can take as long as 30 to 40 years for mesothelioma to development, so screening needs to be done far beyond 5, 10, or 15 years. That’s the nature of the disease and why it’s so deadly. Often, by the time an individual is diagnosed, it’s too late to save him/her and few treatment options are available.