Employee Sues San Diego After City Exposes Them to Asbestos
A legal claim filed this week on behalf of a long-time San Diego building inspector alleges that city officials allowed employees to remain in a contaminated leased building despite months of construction work that exposed them to toxic asbestos dust.
According to a report in the San Diego Union Tribune, the employees were told that they were not being moved out of the rental space in order for the city to avoid for breaking the lease.
Apparently, the penalty would have been in the $1 million range, a number that city officials said they simply could not afford.
So, the employees stayed in the rented high rise located just south of City Hall, despite the fact that work was being done that caused asbestos dust to permeate the air and circulate throughout the office space.
“The city exposed its employees to deadly asbestos for months while they occupied the 1010 Second Ave. building, and then the city concealed the significance of the asbestos exposure its employees suffered,” the claim by the building inspector, Bryan Monaghan, states.
City officials declined to address the claim but issued a statement to the media proclaiming that their top priority is protecting employees from any dangerous work conditions, including exposure to asbestos and other hazardous materials
“The city takes the workplace conditions of its employees seriously and that’s why action was taken to remove all employees from the building once potential asbestos was discovered,” the statement said. “City employees were instructed to leave all their equipment and personal belongings inside to prevent additional contamination.”
The city has stated, in addition, that they plan to sue the building owner on behalf of the employees.
Monaghan’s attorney says she expects that as many as 550 additional plaintiffs could join the suit, some of whom have already expressed dismay about health problems they’re having that may be related to their months of exposure.
“They’re nervous,” she told the newspaper. “Some people have acute illnesses and symptoms as a result of the exposure, but what the majority of them have is a fear of cancer, which is a recognizable claim. They are forced to live their life wondering if it is going to materialize.”
And it’s no wonder they’re worried. Most of the employees worked in the high rise from the time the construction work started in July 2017 until the asbestos problem was discovered at the end of January 2018.
That’s more than 6 months spent working in potentially hazardous conditions.
They were complaining about side effects of the construction work as early as August, but it appears no testing was done until January, when samples showed the presence of two types of asbestos.
Sadly, those samples were taken from floors that were occupied by city employees.
Now it’s just a wait and see for Monaghan and the others who were exposed, though it’s clear that – for the city – it was all about money.
“The reason why it took so long is there was no way for us to break the lease and we would have been held liable for all of that,” said Deputy Chief Operating Officer Ronald Villa, according to a transcript of the meeting cited in the claim.
“Now that is over $1 million. Is that worth everybody’s whatever? Maybe, maybe not.”