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Hospital Cleaning Worker with Lung Disease from Exposure to Chlorine Gas


Settlement:   Total Value ≈ $13 million

($4,650,000 cash plus future

medical care valued at $8.5 million reduced to present value)


Case Name: Confidential

Court: United States District Court, Central District of California

Case No: Confidential

Judges: Florence-Marie Cooper and Howard A. Matz


Plaintiff Attorneys

Raphael Metzger and

Gregory Coolidge

Kathryn A. Darnell

Metzger Law Group

Long Beach, CA


Defense Attorneys

William C. Haggerty

Mitchell D. Kaylor

Katherine M. Harwood

Ford Walker Haggerty Behar

Long Beach, CA

(cleaning service company)


Anthony E. Sonnett

Jocelyn A. Julian

Sonnett & Associates

Los Angeles, CA

(product manufacturer #1)


Patrick G. Donnelly

Riordan, Donnelly, Lipinski & McKee

101 N. Dearborn St. 4th Fl.

Chicago, IL

(product manufacturer #1)


Carolyn Collins

Lauren Michals

Thelen, Reid, Brown,

Raysman & Steiner

San Francisco, CA

(product manufacturer #2)

Rosemarie S. Lewis

Casandra P. Cushman

Borton Petrini

Los Angeles, CA

(products distributor)


Facts – Plaintiff worked at a hospital doing housekeeping. She was provided two different products to use in her work – an acid-based product and a hypochlorite-based product.  Being informed by a co-worker that using the two products together worked very well, Plaintiff sprayed the acid-based product on a heavily stained sink and then squirted the hypochlorite-based product onto a sponge and scrubbed the sink.  This generated strong vapors that Plaintiff inhaled.  She immediately felt intense chest pain and tearing of her eyes. About two weeks later she went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with lung disease.  Plaintiff’s lungs and terminal airways were scarred, requiring lung transplantation.


Plaintiff’s Contentions – Plaintiff contended that when she used the two products together, they generated toxic chlorine gas which caused her lung injury.  She made a workers’ compensation claim against the hospital, sued the company that the hospital hired to train and supervise the housekeeping staff for negligence, and sued the product manufacturers and the distributor for products liability, claiming that the products lacked adequate warnings and were defectively designed because safer feasible alternatives existed that could not generate chlorine gas.


Defendants’ Contentions – Defendants contended that the products, when used as described by Plaintiff, could not generate chlorine gas.  Defendants claimed that experiments they conducted proved such.  Defendants also contended that Plaintiff’s lung disease was not caused by chemical exposure, that their products were not defective, that the warnings they provided were adequate, that Plaintiff received adequate training, instruction and warnings, and was properly supervised in her work, and that Plaintiff misused the products by mixing them together.

 – Plaintiff’s past medical expenses totaled about $1.2 million. Her past and future wage loss reduced to present value totaled about $680,000.  Her future medical expenses reduced to present value ranged from $4.7 million (if she did not qualify for a retransplant when her transplanted lung was expected to fail about 7 years post-transplant), to $8.5 million (if she qualified for and obtained a retransplant, which would increase her life expectancy about another 5 years).  Plaintiff also claimed large general damages.


Result. After three mediation sessions, the case settled, with defendants collectively paying at total of $4.65 million in cash and the hospital agreeing to pay all related future medical care (valued from $4.7 – $8.5 million) in the workers’ compensation case and to waive its right to assert a credit against Plaintiff’s recovery in the civil case.  In exchange for the hospital waiving its credit, Plaintiff reimbursed the hospital about $175,000 on its workers’ compensation lien.


Mediator Michael Moorhead, Judicate West


Plaintiff’s Experts

Barton Simmons, Ph.D. –

Chemistry, Oakland, CA


Mark Nicas, Ph.D. – Exposure

Modeling, Berkeley, CA


Willam Sawyer, M.S. –

Toxicology, Skaneateles, NY


Jerold Abraham, M.D. –

Pulmonary Pathology

Syracuse, NY


Ronald Crystal, M.D. –

Pulmonary Medicine

New York, NY


David Ross, M.D.

Lung Transplantation

Los Angeles, CA



H. Harvey Cohen, Ph.D.

Human Factors Engineering

San Diego, CA

Peter Formuzis, Ph.D.


Santa Ana, CA


Sara Guentz, R.N., B.S.N.

Life Care Planning

Long Beach, CA

Defendants’ Experts

Paul Chiarelli, Ph.D.

Chemistry, Chicago, IL


Peggy Brady, Ph.D. – Industrial

Hygiene, Dearborn, MI


Amy Madl, M.S., D.A.B.T. – Toxicology – San Francisco, CA

Peter Julien, M.D. – Radiology

Los Angeles, CA


Arnold Schwartz, M.D.

Pathology – Washington, D.C.


James Lockey, M.D.

Occupational and Pulmonary Medicine – Cincinnati, OH


Jeffrey Golden, M.D.

Lung Transplantation

San Francisco, CA

John Henshaw, M.S.

Industrial Hygiene – Sanibel, FL

David J. Weiner, M.B.A.

Economist, Los Angeles, CA


Doreen Casuto, R.N.

Life Care Planning San Diego, CA