Wednesday, October 4, 2023
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Widow Blames Contractor for Husband’s Death

LAS VEGAS (CN) - A Las Vegas contractor forced Spanish-speaking pipe-layers to work with carcinogenic industrial glue in unventilated trenches, killing a man who died of lung cancer, his widow claims in court.

Lucia Lucas Barragan claims Terra Contracting's violations were blatant and illegal: that though state law required Terra to ventilate the trenches where workers used the carcinogenic glue, "Terra installed ventilators shortly before inspections were to begin, and removed the ventilators shortly after inspections were complete. This was done to create the appearance of compliance with law, and to deceive inspectors."

She sued Terra and the gluemaker, Oatey Supply Chain Services, on Nov. 10 in Clark County Court. Her husband, Hector Lopez, died of lung cancer on Nov. 10, 2013, after working for Terra for 4½ years.

"Terra intentionally refused to ventilate the trenches, knowing that ventilation was crucial to provide the greatest degree of safety for laborers working with a carcinogen" and "intentionally refused to provide any other safety devices that might have reduced the risk of laborers contracting disease while working with a carcinogen," Barragan says in the complaint.

She claims Terra exploited the Spanish-speaking workers because it knew they would not be able to complain to safety inspectors.

"Terra felt that its deceit would not be exposed because Hispanic laborers were unable to effectively communicate with inspectors, or were afraid to do so," Barragan says in the complaint. "Language barriers and/or fears relating to citizenship status made Hispanic laborers vulnerable to exploitation."

The widow and her children say Terra and Oatey knew the glue is carcinogenic, but did not provide adequate warnings, training, supervision or a safe work environment for Hector and his coworkers, which caused him to develop lung cancer and die.

Terra "intentionally required" him to work in unventilated trenches, "intentionally refused" to provide him with safety devices, "intentionally" made him work with the carcinogen, "knowing he would be harmed thereby," causing his death by "its malicious and intentional conduct," the widow says in the complaint.

Barragan and Lopez had been married for 32 years and raised four daughters, who are adults. They seek punitive damages.

Terra Contracting owner Ed McSwain did not return a telephone call on Monday.

Barragan's attorney, Shane Clifford, was not available by telephone Monday.

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