Today’s case is out of the State of Washington and the Pacific Northwest. If you’ve inhaled this toxic chemical combination you will find this case interesting. If you have a case and find this post provide this case cite to your lawyer. If anyone finds other cases and provides them to me I will add those to this website. 

In Baker v. Schatz, 912 P2d 501, 80 Wn. App. 775, 912 P.2d 501 (Wash. App. Div. 2, 1996) a workers’ compensation case involving the allegations of an intentional tort whereby it was alleged the employer through a supervisor “deliberately intended to injure them by repeatedly exposing them to chemicals.” Keep in mind this seems to be a rather unusually case. What is so interesting about this case is the testimony about the side effects from coming into contact with methylene chloride.

Other employees also testified that they complained to supervisors that the chemicals were causing breathing difficulties, severe headaches, daily nausea, dizziness and skin rashes. Several employees passed out and were treated a number of times at nearby hospital emergency rooms.

The employer, General Plastics, denied that the employees' health problems were caused by the chemicals and attributed the problems to the flu or to the employees' smoking or other bad habits. During the lawsuit, however, the president of the company admitted that he was aware of the hazards of overexposure to methylene chloride, and that he understood that workers faced a potential health risk if they were exposed to toxic material above permissible levels. The president of the company also admitted that he was aware of employee complaints to the Department of Labor and Industries about unsafe working conditions and that the Department cited General Plastics for exposing workers to chemicals. Management also admitted that employees complained repeatedly to their supervisors that the chemical in the plant were causing health problems. Despite the above testimony, management and supervisors testified that they had no intention of injuring any of the employees.

Ultimately, the court held that General Plastics' supervisors and president were aware that the employees were suffering from chemical-related illnesses and unless the working environment changed, continuing injury was certain. Additionally, the court stated that General Plastics' supervisors knew that the material safety data sheet for methylene chloride stated that one should avoid skin contact with the substance. As a result of all of the testimony provided, the court ruled that the employees could bring their civil action against the employer.

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Steve Lombardi
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