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Lawsuit Filed by Collier Law Firm Alleges that Sonoma State University Put Hundreds at Risk of Lead and Asbestos Exposure

Plaintiff Thomas Sargent, a California Department of Public Health certified lead inspector and project monitor, has brought a lawsuit against California State University in Sonoma County Superior Court Case No. SCV-255399 (Sargent v. Board of Trustees of the California State University). The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Sargent repeatedly and properly advised Sonoma State University with respect to managing lead hazards. The lawsuit further alleges that these recommendations were actively disregarded, resulting in unnecessary risks to students, faculty, staff, and visitors. According to the complaint, CSU officials subsequently prohibited Plaintiff from sharing lead or asbestos exposure information with staff. Ultimately, the complaint alleges, Mr. Sargent notified the Department of Public Health, the Department of Emergency Services, and then Cal-OSHA. The lawsuit further alleges that citations and a Notice of Violation were issued as a result.

Mr. Sargent, also a Cal-OSHA Certified Asbestos Consultant, then alleges that he performed asbestos dust sampling in Stevenson Hall which revealed substantially elevated asbestos concentrations on a faculty office windowsill. The lawsuit further alleges that third-party consultants subsequently performed asbestos dust sampling to find asbestos contamination in five buildings on campus. Mr. Sargent claims that he tested suspect asbestos material in the Stevenson ventilation system and advised dust and air testing during maintenance activities. According to the lawsuit's allegations, the University formally threatened Mr. Sargent with termination and prohibited further sampling of materials suspected to contain asbestos or lead. The lawsuit further alleges that the University warned him in writing to no longer report suspected violations to outside government agencies without the University’s consent. According to the complaint's allegations, University employees were allowed to access contaminated ventilation system components without protection for nearly two years thereafter.

The lawsuit then alleges that Facilities Management initiated a project that would demolish the ceiling in the Provost's office suite. According to the complaint's allegations, University safety officials denied that any asbestos testing was necessary. In response, the lawsuit alleges that Mr. Sargent initiated a preservation order (i.e., a request from his attorneys to preserve evidence until testing could occur). The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Sargent then conducted a site inspection to collect and analyze dust visible in the ventilation system. According to the lawsuit's allegations, Mr. Sargent was constructively discharged shortly thereafter. Also, according to the lawsuit's allegations, the testing itself revealed that asbestos levels were identified in all four locations tested. The University subsequently hired an abatement contractor to perform the work with proper controls, the lawsuit alleges.

According to the lawsuit's allegations, Mr. Sargent initiated a second site inspection in January 2016. The lawsuit further alleges that the University filed multiple motions attempting to prevent the inspection, but its arguments were ultimately rejected by the Superior Court and the Court of Appeal. When the testing finally occurred, the lawsuit alleges that asbestos dust contamination exceeding that of a significant accidental release at an abatement site were found inside the Stevenson ventilation system. According to the lawsuit's allegations, high concentrations were also identified inside a ventilation system supply unit in Carson Hall.

According to the lawsuit's allegations, the presence of asbestos contamination presents an inhalation risk every time it is disturbed by building occupants or maintenance personnel.

According to the complaint's allegations, Mr. Sargent is seeking penalties for OSHA violations, retaliation, and related damages. The trial is currently scheduled for July 29, 2016, at the Sonoma County Superior Court, Department 16. The lawsuit alleges that the trial has already been continued twice and the University’s most recent request to postpone the trial was denied. The lawsuit, originally filed in May of 2014, is nearly two years old.

Press Conference

Mr. Sargent and his attorneys will hold a press conference on April 28, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. The conference will be located at the Mario Savio Speaker Corner on the Sonoma State University campus located at 1801 East Cotati Avenue, Rohnert Park, CA 94928.


For more information or to learn more about Mr. Sargent's claims:

Dustin L. Collier
V. Joshua Socks
Collier Law Firm
1 Sansome Street, Ste. 3500
San Francisco, CA 94104
P: (510) 250-9606
C: (510) 610-0339
F: (844) 274-1850

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Source: PRWeb
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