- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - An $80 million settlement has been reached in a class-action lawsuit over removal of asbestos during renovation of the Jackson County Courthouse in downtown Kansas City 30 years ago.

The case was scheduled to go to trial this week but the county reached an agreement with Kansas City-based U.S. Engineering, which removed the asbestos from the courthouse from 1983 to 1985, The Kansas City Star reported Wednesday (https://bit.ly/2eRLbwt ).

The settlement will be divided, with $25 million for attorney’s fees and the cost of the litigation and the rest for a medical monitoring fund to pay for diagnostic tests for people exposed to the asbestos. A judge is expected to finalize the agreement in late December.

About 7,500 people could be eligible for the testing, including county employees, jurors, jail inmates and attorneys. Those who can prove they were in the courthouse for at least 80 hours when the asbestos was being removed will be eligible for annual medical exams. People who were in the courthouse for 80 hours in any one year after the work was done, from 1986 to 2007, will get free screening every five years.

Plaintiff Jeanne Morgan, who worked in the courthouse, testified during a 2014 hearing that dust and grit from the asbestos coated nearly everything in her fifth-floor office. Witnesses said workers tracked the dust through the building and took no precautions such as masks, gloves or warning signs.

“The particles would be . all over the papers,” Morgan testified. “The dust from their boots and their work shoes was on the stairway and in the hallways.”

One of Morgan’s co-workers, Nancy Lopez, died in 2010 from complications from inhaling the asbestos fibers that she contended were in the dust during the renovation project. Lopez was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009 and died the following year. Her heirs won a $10.4 million settlement in 2011 from the county and U.S. Engineering Co.

U.S. Engineering and Jackson County contended no proof existed that anyone was harmed by the asbestos removal.

Asbestos is no longer a threat at the courthouse, the county said in its news release Wednesday.

Testing in 2010 and since then “confirms that the air quality in the courthouse is safe and meets regulatory guidelines,” the statement said.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, https://www.kcstar.com


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