Legislation & Litigation

Colorado School District Loses Track of Lawsuit Settlement Funds

Written By:
Oct 26, 2012
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Written By: Karen Marshall,
October 26, 2012

Although the United States never banned asbestos, legal safeguards do exist to help reduce asbestos exposure. Those safeguards generally fall under two categories: asbestos abatement regulations and civil lawsuit liability.

This week, we’ll look at a Northern Colorado school district that’s relying on both to protect its students and employees from asbestos exposure.

Asbestos in schools is hardly a revelation. School districts around the country have wrestled with abatement and other expensive solutions — including building new schools — because so many school buildings were constructed during the 1960s and 1970s when asbestos was prevalent in the construction industry.

The danger, of course, is the disease that comes with the asbestos. Mesothelioma and lung cancer are two of the serious types of asbestos related diseases.

Voters: Where Did Asbestos Money Go?

Voters Wonder What Happened to the Money for Mesothelioma Victims

During the 1980s, several public school districts sued asbestos manufacturers to recover the costs of asbestos abatement. During the 1990s, Northern Colorado’s School District 6 received funds from an asbestos class-action settlement.

However, the school district’s effort to fund a new building for Jack Evans Middle School in Greeley, Colorado has voters asking what happened to that money.

The school district reportedly hopes to qualify for a federal grant that would help remove asbestos at the middle school. If the district receives the grant, the state will contribute $21 million to improve John Evans.

But to qualify for the federal money, residents must first head to the polls in a couple of weeks and pass an $8.2 million bond issue.

Recent efforts to win the federal grant have reportedly reminded some local officials that the school has already received money for asbestos removal. But no one in the school district has been able to account for the money.

According to news reports, a school district employee has confirmed that the district was part of an asbestos abatement class action lawsuit, but has no records about a settlement. Another school official has stated that no money for asbestos abatement has been given to the district for at least 15 years.

It’s unclear whether the district will be able to sort the issue out before the election. What is clear is that this particular school is in need of asbestos abatement and local officials should act quickly.

Asbestos Regulations and Civil Lawsuits

Asbestos abatement regulations govern how asbestos is removed and contained. Because asbestos was so widely used in American construction projects, care must be taken to avoid exposure, particularly in older buildings.

State and local laws require that abatement projects be done by qualified, licensed contractors. These abatement workers must follow specific safety measures. Failure to follow abatement laws can lead to fines and even jail time.

Manufacturers and distributors of asbestos and asbestos-related products may face legal liability for endangering the public. This liability is based on their legal responsibility to warn about the dangers of asbestos exposure. Injured parties may have a right to financial compensation if asbestos manufacturers or distributors fail in this duty.

Losing a civil asbestos lawsuit will not land the defendant in jail. But plaintiffs who have been injured by asbestos exposure may be entitled to money damages. The threat of large financial liability can help encourage companies to exercise more care in handling asbestos and warn about the potential dangers of exposure.

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