Blog Archives

New York’s Asbestos Court Mulls Changes After Sheldon Silver Scandal

By Daniel Fisher, http://www.forbes.com/

Sheldon SilverNew York’s special court system for hearing asbestos cases will be on trial Thursday as defense lawyers make their case for reforms in the wake of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s indictment on allegations he accepted millions of dollars in kickbacks from one of the most prominent asbestos plaintiff firms in the state.

Administrative Judge Sherry Klein Heitler, who oversaw changes that defense lawyers say made it easier for plaintiffs to win cases in NYCAL courts and specifically benefitted Weitz & Luxenberg, the law firm that allegedly paid Silver, a part-time employee, more than $5 million for client referrals from a cancer physician who secretly received money from a state fund Silver controlled.

Weitz & Luxenberg and Silver have both denied wrongdoing. Defense lawyers have long complained that Weitz & Luxenberg had special privileges at NYCAL under Heitler, however. As the firm with the largest number of asbestos cases on the docket, defense lawyers say, Weitz & Luxenberg was able to cherry-pick which cases went to trial and got first shot at juries in a court system overloaded with more than 10,000 asbestos lawsuits. Read more

Vacaville company faces fine over lead paint in Bay Area homes

By Robert Digitale, The Press Democrat

leadpaintVacaville-based Blue Mountain Air is facing a $51,000 fine for failing to follow federal rules in the treatment and removal of lead-based paint during its renovation of four Bay Area homes, the U.S. Environmental Protection announced Wednesday.

The company, a subsidiary of Blue Mountain Inc., failed to obtain required EPA certification before the renovations, and also failed to keep required records and to ensure the project’s workers were certified to safely remove lead-based paint, the agency said.

The four homes, all foreclosures, were renovated in 2011 and 2012 in Santa Rosa, Napa and El Sobrante. Read more

Landlord accused of forging lead paint documents

By Anthony Fay, http://wwlp.com

fraud-photoSpringfield property manager Dwayne Johnson has been indicted for allegedly submitting false lead inspection reports so he could receive Section 8 housing payments.

Johnson, 46, was indicted Wednesday by a Hampden County Superior Court jury on two counts of uttering false or forged records. He is accused of submitting false reports in November of 2011 and October of 2013 to HAP Housing, which administers the Section 8 program in greater Springfield. According to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office, HAP and the Child Lead Poisoning Prevention Program reviewed the documents and determined them to be false, and the matter was referred to the AG’s office.

Prosecutors say that Johnson committed the alleged forgery by altering a legitimate lead inspection report, which was issued for a different property. They say that the two properties that Johnson was renting were not compliant with the state’s lead paint regulations, and that he rented one of the properties to a parent living with two young children. Read more

Baltimore boy, 17, awarded $2M in lead paint case

By Katie Lange, http://www.wbaltv.com/

A 17-year-old Baltimore boy who suffered permanent brain damage due to lead paint exposure where he lived when he was younger has been awarded $2 million in a civil case.

The victim, who wasn’t named because he’s a juvenile, was exposed to lead paint while living with his grandmother and mother at a home in the 1600 block of East 25th Street in northeast Baltimore from the time of his birth in 1997 until 2001, court testimony revealed.

The $2,088,550 verdict in the case against Elliott Dackman, of The Dackman Company, was rendered Friday, finding him negligent in failing to maintain the home in accordance with Maryland law. Officials said Dackman was the principal person behind the company that owned the building, as well as another company, Jacob Dackman & Sons LLC, which managed it.

“All the landlord had to do was paint the house, and they didn’t,” said the plaintiff’s attorney, Bruce Powell, of the Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl.

During the trial, experts testified that the boy suffered permanent brain damage that resulted in a loss of four to five IQ points, as well as several cognitive deficits, attention and focus problems, learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

“He’s been struggling in school up to this point, serious problems. He’s in high school. Last year, his GPA was below 1.0. (He’s) taking bridge classes and doing Saturday mornings to try and stay on track to graduate. It looks very iffy at this point,” Powell said.

Officials said in December 1997, the boy was tested and found to have a lead level of 12 micrograms per deciliter. That rose one point higher five months later, and eventually rose to 14 mcg/dl — more than double the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s reference level that’s used to identify kids with lead paint exposure. Read more

Haddonfield lawyer admits to doctoring asbestos suits in N.Y. to increase business

By Jessica Beym, South Jersey Times

Judges_GavelA former attorney in the Haddonfield office of a firm specializing in toxic tort litigation today admitted that he falsified defendants’ names in more than 100 asbestos suits filed in New York State courts in order to increase business and his standing in the firm, according to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.

Arobert C. Tonogbanua, 44, of Sicklerville pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman in Camden federal court to one count of wire fraud.

Authorities said Tonogbanua admitted that he fraudulently inserted the names of his former law firm’s clients into legitimately filed asbestos suits and charged the clients more than $1 million in attorney’s fees, costs and settlements to defend them.

Tonogbanua admitted that, unbeknownst to anyone else at the firm, he forwarded those fraudulently altered complaints to the firm’s clients, their representatives and insurance companies.

Authorities estimate that Tonogbanua inserted his firm’s clients’ names into more than 100 lawsuits, resulting in the generation of more than $1 million in fraudulent fees, costs and settlements. Tonogbanua is said to have personally benefitted from the scheme through bonuses and increased compensation. Read More

Metal firm owner sentenced for lead exposure failures

By Regional News Network, http://press.hse.gov.uk/regional-contacts/

The owner of a Nottinghamshire alloy firm has been sentenced for failing to protect workers from the risks of lead poisoning after three employees became seriously ill.

They included Brook Northey, 28, of Mansfield, who required specialist treatment at the West Midlands Poisons Unit after working at LDB Light Alloys Ltd, owned by Mansfield businessman Laurence Brown.

He had been working with his two colleagues at the Boughton-based company making lead sheeting from molten lead. His job was to scrape off the solid impurities, or dross, in a crucible containing the molten lead and pour the excess into containers.

Mr Northey was hospitalised for three weeks in May 2011 and continued to receive treatment for over a year. He was also off work for a year and can never work with lead again.

Prior to being diagnosed with lead poisoning he had been admitted to hospital with renal problems.

A subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found conditions at Mr Brown’s company were so bad that a Prohibition Notice was served halting all work with immediate effect.

Nottingham Crown Court heard today (4 February) that extraction systems, personal protective equipment, respiratory protection, hygiene and rest facilities were all unsatisfactory, and that no air monitoring or medical surveillance was provided.

HSE also established that lunch breaks were taken in an old, lead-contaminated caravan with no running water. Water was collected in contaminated plastic milk cartons from a contaminated hand washing area in the workshop. Clothes worn for work were not removed before eating and drinking and there was no toilet facility at the factory.

Staff had not been told about the effects of lead or how to recognize the symptoms of over-exposure. Read More

W.R. Grace & Co. To Pay $250 Million in Record Asbestos Settlement

3/12/2008 9:59:58 AM In the largest asbestos-related settlement on record, W.R. Grace & Co. (GRA) agreed Tuesday to reimburse the federal government $250 million. The money was used by the government in the town of Libby, Montana, where hundreds of people were sickened by asbestos, including some that died. The investigation and cleanup cost the taxpayers $168 million, with another $175 million likely.

The record payout is awaiting approval by a federal bankruptcy judge. The funding for the cleanup was originally taken from the government’s Superfund environmental cleanup program, and the $250 million from W.R. Grace & Co. will reimburse taxpayers….

Read the full story at RTT News: Global Financial Newswires

Phoenix newstation investigates mold remediation firms and finds them fraudulent

Phoenix’s KPHO News 5 conducted an undercover investigation in which they placed a small smudge of MASCARA on a homeowner’s wall, called in several mold remediation companies to investigate the “mold-like substance,” and found that all but one were willing to charge thousands of dollars to remove the substance instead of having it tested first to determine its “make up.”  (Excuse the weak pun.)

This is indeed a sad statement about our industry and gives honorable mold remediators a bad name.  For the past several years, QuanTEM Laboratories has been conducting bi-annual Mold Investigator Training courses to prevent this type of recklessness and to help prospective mold investigators follow procedures that can limit liability and potential litigation.

To read Channel 5’s investigative story and watch the VIDEO, click here.

Mystery Mold Getting Kids Sick At Daytona Beach School

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Children are starting to get sick from a mysterious mold at a Daytona Beach elementary school. Toxicologists came out to Longstreet Elementary, but they still can’t figure out what’s causing the mold. It’s difficult to track down, too. The classrooms were just rebuilt this winter and a mold expert Friday explained that all it takes is some moisture like Thursday night’s rain to get in during the rebuilding and then one tiny spore in one tiny crack can lead to big problems. Tampa toxicologists and the county health department inspected the row of moldy classrooms Friday at Longstreet Elementary School. They found no obvious mold or environment for mold growth. “It is serious and it is a problem,” said parent Cheryl Martin. Air samples confirmed the mold was there last month and Martin’s experience with her daughter tells her it was a serious amount.”The doctor checked her again for her breathing and he can hear the wheezing inside. And he put her on a breathing machine,” she said….

Read the Full Story at WFTV.com

(Looks like one parent is wanting to file suit against the school district.  Could be messy!)

Contractor charged with illegal dumping

A Charleston contractor whose company tears down buildings is facing criminal prosecution for allegedly turning two of his properties into illegal dump sites.

Rodney D. Loftis Sr. is scheduled to go to trial next month on charges that he violated two cease and desist orders from the state Department of Environmental Protection and created open dumps on Woodward Drive and Northfield Road without DEP permission.

Court documents indicate that investigators found chrysotile, a kind of asbestos, at both sites…

Full story at The Charleston Gazette