Exposure To Thiophosphoryl Chloride
Significant six-figure recovery for a Blair County woman whose husband died due to lung damage resulting from exposure to toxic chemicals at work. The claim was brought against a doctor for failing to diagnose the injury to the lung in a timely fashion.
The chemical involved in this case was Thiophosphoryl Chloride. After the exposure, the worker was showered down at work and then sent to a local doctor to be examined. He was having a little bit of trouble breathing at that time, but the doctor did not believe it was necessary to send him to the hospital because he actually seemed to get better after he stayed in the office a few hours. He then sent the man home. When he arrived home, the worker went to bed, and then around eight hours later, his wife found him dead in his bed. According to an autopsy, he suffered a delayed reaction in his lungs called pulmonary edema which, over time, gradually caused his lungs to stop working.
Our argument in the case was that the company doctor, rather than sending the worker home, should have sent him to a local Emergency Room where he could be observed over a matter of hours. It was our contention that the doctor should have been aware that when people inhale toxic chemicals, it can cause a delayed reaction in the lungs. One of the challenges we faced in the case was that there had never been another death caused by exposure to this chemical due to a delayed reaction in the lungs. After this case, however, OSHA started to warn chemical plants about this possibility.
There were some indications in this case that the worker's employer was at fault for causing him to be exposed to this chemical, but under Pennsylvania law, a worker cannot sue employer. The only right they have is to receive workers' compensation.
As damages in this wrongful death claim, we sought recovery of future wages as well as damages for his wife's loss of "society and companionship" of her husband. These are typical damages claimed in a wrongful death case where there is a surviving spouse.