Largest Settlement Ever Reached in Missouri Asbestos Death

According to a report from the Kansas City Star, a $10 million settlement was reached this week in “a lawsuit over asbestos removal problems at the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City.” The settlement is related to a former courthouse employee, Nancy R. Lopez, who passed away after contracting mesothelioma, a rare cancer tied to asbestos exposure. The largest settlement involving asbestos in Missouri history, the Star explains the mishandling is tied back to the U.S. Engineering Company out of Kansas City. The settlement itself will require the engineering company to pay $10 million and Jackson County to pay $400,000. U.S. Engineering did counter sue two other companies, taking in a total of $40,000. This case is similar but not at all tied to “a separate class-action suit filed on behalf of courthouse employees, their families and courthouse visitors." The Kansas City Star reports that case is still pending. Both the class action suit and this suit addressing the death of Lopez were filed in Jackson County, though the Missouri Supreme Court decided to preside over the individual death trial. This recent settlement dates back to March 2010, the Kansas City news source reports, when it was “alleged that dust containing asbestos fibers was released inside the building at 415 E. 12th St. during a 1983 renovation project, and that it has continued to be a problem there for a number of years.” Lopez was 56 years old when she passed away in October 2010, the article explains. After working at the Jackson County Courthouse for nearly 35 years, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma in April 2009. During the lawsuit, Lopez’s attorney alleged that throughout the asbestos removal process there were violations of the rules and procedures set out by the Environmental Protection Agency. The violations are said to have occurred between 1983 and 1984, when U.S. Engineering carried out demolition, renovation, and maintenance projects on the courthouse. U.S. Engineering Company has maintained that by agreeing to the settlement, they were not admitting liability or responsibility for the asbestos issues and death of Lopez, the Star reports. A representative from the engineering firm claimed that the case was settled to “bring closure” to the family of the victim, as well as the company itself. In 2010, the article explains that Jackson County hired an independent company to investigate whether or not asbestos exposure could still be a problem in the building. The resulting samples showed that the air quality was within the levels set forth by federal and state law.
  • Rizzo, Tony. (November 21, 2011) “$10 million settlement reached in Jackson County Courthouse asbestos case.” Retrieved on November 23, 2011 from The Kansas City Star.
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