Michigan School District Faces Lawsuit for Asbestos Cover-Up

A federal lawsuit was filed on Tuesday against Michigan’s Dearborn Heights School District No. 7, after evidence was uncovered that workers at two of the schools disrupted asbestos in vinyl flooring. Yet, instead of testing school staff and students for asbestos exposure, the district allegedly covered up the incident.

According to reports, officials at the Dearborn Heights School District No. 7 are not denying that asbestos was disrupted at one of the schools. In fact, officials told the Detroit Free Press that vinyl floors containing asbestos were sanded down with electric sanders. They take responsibility for the mistake, but are insistent that no evidence shows that asbestos fibers were airborne, and therefore, they feel no one is at risk.

However, the lawsuit isn’t claiming that asbestos is a current problem at either of the two schools named in the claim: Annapolis High School and Madison Elementary School. Instead, the lawsuit stems back to evidence recorded by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA).

Records indicate that in 2013, the school district was fined $27,000 for severe health and safety violations that occurred when custodian Theresa Ely and other employees used sanding equipment to remove the wax off of vinyl flooring at both schools. Ely has since retained legal representation, claiming that she was discriminated and retaliated against after the incident. In 2013, the school district laid her off. The sanding work was done at Madison Elementary School in 2011, followed by work done at Annapolis High School in 2012.

“I’ve never seen the length that this district has gone to cover this up, from falsifying asbestos reports to issuing gag orders to employees to not talk about an item that has grave health concerns,” said Ely’s attorney.

MIOSHA violations against the school district include:

  • Failing to properly train employees
  • Allowing an employee to sand a floor that contains asbestos
  • Failing to monitor employees properly

At Least 20 People Exposed to Asbestos

According to Ely, at least 20 employees may have been exposed to asbestos. Since she complained to the district about the issue, she feels that’s the reason she was laid off. Although she was tested for asbestos exposure, the school district has still not paid for the testing costs. The tests results confirmed that she was exposed to asbestos. To make matters worse, a former Annapolis High School cafeteria worker died last year from malignant mesothelioma, according to the lawsuit.

In addition, Don Clayton, the school district’s environmental consultant, said that he never once inspected either school for asbestos. In fact, he thinks that there was a “cover-up,” in which someone forged a report that he wrote previously. Although Clayton said he wrote a report last year, it had nothing to do with asbestos, yet the original report he wrote now states that no asbestos problems were found in the schools.

The school’s superintendent during the time the report was reportedly doctored was Jeff Bartold. Although Bartold hasn’t been charged with doctoring the report, he did claim that a consultant’s report shows that no asbestos was found in Annapolis High School and that no students or staff are in danger.

Asbestos Exposure is Life-Threatening

Asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma and asbestosis are life-threatening illnesses that develop after ingesting airborne asbestos fibers. Since asbestos fibers are small, odorless, and undetectable by the human eye, it’s impossible to determine ingestion without proper medical testing. Once asbestos fibers are breathed in, it’s impossible for the body dispel all of them.

Keep in mind that if you or a loved one have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, there is a good chance that you’ll qualify for considerable compensation. More than $30 billion is currently set aside in asbestos trust funds for asbestos victims. For assistance, we invite you to contact our leading mesothelioma attorneys today for a free case consultation.

Sources:

  1. http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/michigan/2014/11/26/suit-alleges-asbestos-cover-dearborn-height-schools/70120712/
  2. http://www.pressandguide.com/articles/2014/11/26/news/doc5475de40d0d1c796378017.txt

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