Suit filed by hazardous waste incineration plant workers is dismissed

LISBON – Four workers at an East Liverpool hazardous waste incineration plant say they were exposed to harmful chemicals last year because of inadequate protective gear and supervision.

The lawsuit they filed against Heritage-WTI Inc. was dismissed last week after the judge ruled the workers failed to introduce evidence the company intended for them to be injured, which is the legal threshold that had to be met for the case to proceed to trial.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this year in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court on behalf of Bryon Davis, Winston Drive, East Liverpool; Ian Palmer, Denver Street, East Liverpool; Justin Kelly, state Route 45, Lisbon, and Brian Hunt, Churchill Road, Lisbon.

The men were working at Heritage-WTI, now known as Heritage-Thermal Services, on March 13, 2012 and preparing hazardous waste for incineration, when their protective clothing, gloves, respirators and masks began to “melt and disintegrate,” exposing them to at least four chemicals. The lawsuit alleged WTI provided the workers safety equipment inadequate to protect them from the “corrosive and toxic nature” of the chemical wastes they were handling.

The lawsuit also alleged the company failed to provide the “appropriate surveillance” to monitor the workers as they handled the chemical wastes to ensure their protective gear and clothing were protecting them.

Each worker was seeking in excess of $25,000 in damages, the minimum for a personal injury lawsuit, as compensation for any injuries, health problems and mental anguish caused by their exposure to the chemicals.

Heritage-WTI’s attorneys argued that for lawsuits of this sort to be successful the plaintiffs must introduce evidence the defendant knew its actions or inaction would likely cause injury, which the workers failed to do.

Judge Scott Washam agreed, saying that even if the allegations were true the lawsuit “does not allege even generally that Heritage-WTI acted with a deliberate intent to cause injury or the belief that injury was substantially certain to occur …”

The plaintiff also suggested Heritage-WTI was culpable because the company “in effect misrepresented the danger of the toxic materials. However, the complaint does not specifically allege that Heritage-WTI deliberately misrepresented any toxic or hazardous substance as required by the language of the (law),” Washam said.