First Responders Sue Chemical Plant Owners for Failing to Warn of Dangers from Fire

A group of first responders who were exposed to smoke from the Crosby, Texas, chemical plant that exploded in the wake of Hurricane Harvey is suing the owner of the plant for over $1 million, alleging that fumes from the smoke caused them to vomit and gasp for air after exposure. The responders argue in their suit that the plant’s owner, Arkema, minimized the true extent of the danger of exposure to the fire. They also claim that Arkema failed to warn the responders manning the perimeter of the mandatory 1.5-mile evacuation area to move farther away from the fumes. The lawsuit claims that “immediately upon being exposed to the fumes from the explosion, and one by one, the police officers and first responders began to fall ill in the middle of the road.” The suit also alleges that some police officers, unable to abandon their vehicles with weapons in them, drove themselves to the nearest hospital. Other responders were taken by ambulance.

After the loss of refrigeration led to an evacuation of the plant, Arkema executives and the Harris County fire marshal’s office warned people to stay at least 1.5 miles away, a distance the lawsuit calls “arbitrary.”However, Arkema and fire officials are not calling the smoke from the fires “toxic.”Rather, the company asserts that the smoke inhaled by police was a “nontoxic irritant,” and stated that toxicity is a relative determination. “We reject any suggestion that we failed to warn of the danger of breathing the smoke from the fires at our site, or that we ever misled anyone,” the company said. ”To the contrary, we pleaded with the public, for their own safety, to respect the 1.5-mile evacuation zone imposed by the unified command well prior to any fire.”

First Responders Claiming Negligence

The lawsuit accuses Arkema of negligence and claims that they failed to sufficiently prepare for an extreme flood, improperly storing chemicals at the plant, and not having a more reliable backup form of refrigeration. Another important issue in the case is whether the 1.5-mile evacuation radius around the plant that Arkema ordered was arbitrary and could have been more comprehensive. In response to the highly-publicized plant explosion, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also requested Arkema to supply a detailed timeline of events and respond to questions about the handling of organic peroxides on the site. This includes a report on the number of chemical materials present, and the measures taken in advance to protect against flooding and loss of electricity.

Contact an Atlanta Workplace Injury Attorney

An injury due to an accident at the workplace can be challenging to recover from, especially if it results in lost wages. If you have suffered an injury on the job that was due to negligence, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries. Contact the Atlanta workplace injury attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Fulton County, DeKalb County, and Gwinnett County.

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