California high school students who were exposed to asbestos fibers during a renovation seven years ago will soon have their day in court with the three men responsible.
The three defendants probably face two years in federal prison. However, a pending civil case against the trio could force them to pay damages. Ten of the students, now in their 20s, claim possible injuries and emotional suffering. (Their suit also names as defendants the Merced County Office of Education, as well as the Merced County superintendent of schools at the time of the renovation.)
Additionally, federal prosecutors want those exposed to submit to voluntary medical monitoring. This underscores how dangerous asbestos can be, and how it can take decades for symptoms of an asbestos disease, such as mesothelioma, to appear.
"We want to get a better response from potential victims regarding their interest in medical monitoring to determine if they are or will be experiencing adverse effects from their exposure to airborne asbestos," stated a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California.
The students, from Merced County, encountered asbestos when they removed 1,000 feet of pipe and tank insulation. As this blog noted, the workers did so without proper protective measures or training. The students performed this under the direction of the defendants, who knew the material contained asbestos.
Last March, the three defendants (Rudy Buendia III, 50, Patrick Bowman, 46, and Joseph Cuellar, 73) pleaded no contest to violating federal asbestos laws. They were also convicted on state charges.
The men were overseeing a renovation at the Automotive Training Center at Merced County's Castle Commerce Center, which lasted from September 2005 to March 2006. In an apparent attempt to reduce costs, the trio enlisted more than nine high school vocational students to remove the asbestos embedded in the center.
This was potentially dangerous to the workers. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure for any type of asbestos fiber, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration.
Buendia, Bowman, and Cuellar were supposed to be sentenced in federal court on June 3. However, prosecutors wanted additional time to prepare a request for restitution for the victims. The new date for sentencing is August 19 when the victims can offer impact statements in court.
If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to financial compensation. A successful mesothelioma lawsuit can help pay medical bills and other expenses. Contact Sokolove Law today to get a free case evaluation and to learn if a mesothelioma lawyer can help you.