Wednesday, June 7, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Terminix Nears $87M Deal for Poisoned Family

(CN) — Pest-control giant Terminix is in negotiations to pay a Delaware family $87 million for a poisoning incident at a U.S. Virgin Islands resort, according to financial filings from its parent company.

On the morning of March 18, 2015, a Terminix employee went to the Sirenusa Resort in St. John, Virgin Islands, for a pesticide treatment in a rental unit located below the one occupied by Steve Esmond, his wife and their two teenage sons, company financial records show.

According to a report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, "via various means, methyl bromide from the lower unit in Building J migrated to the upper unit of Building J where the Esmonds were staying." Methyl bromide is a potentially deadly, odorless gas.

The Esmonds were taken to a hospital two days later with neurological symptoms such as weakness, severe muscle twitching, "altered sensorium, and word-finding difficulty," the SEC records show.

Before the family entered into confidential settlement negotiations with Terminix last year, their attorney told CNN that the teenagers were having difficulty eating, walking and sitting on their own. The boys and their father reportedly had difficulty speaking and suffered tremors.

Memphis, Tenn.-based Terminix, which operates in 47 U.S. states and 22 countries, is a subsidiary of ServiceMaster Global Holdings Inc. In a July 28 quarterly earnings report filed with the SEC, ServiceMaster says it has reached a tentative $87 million settlement with the Esmonds.

"The company has reached a tentative settlement agreement to settle all civil claims of the affected family related to the U.S. Virgin Islands matter. The company expects that, under the terms of the proposed settlement agreement, in addition to the amounts that the company's insurance carriers have agreed to pay to the family pursuant to our general liability insurance policies, the company will pay an additional $87 million," the filing states. "The settlement agreement will include customary release and confidentiality provisions and may require approval by a court."

ServiceMaster says in the SEC report that it cannot "reasonably" estimate any other potential penalties, fines or sanctions that may be imposed by government authorities over the Virgin Islands incident.

The company also mentions a Sept. 15, 2015, lawsuit filed by a Florida family, which claims a child was injured by a Terminix subcontractor's fumigation work. The SEC report says a trial is scheduled for this September.


Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.