Appeals Court allows DIA workers’ state lawsuit to continue
DENVER – A judge appropriately rejected the city of Denver’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by current and former Denver International Airport workers who claimed a failure to clean up or prevent certain types of contamination made them sick, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.The city had argued it was immune from the litigation because the workers had failed to provide proper notice that they planned to sue. The trial judge said notice of the lawsuit was adequate, but dismissed some claims of older injuries.A three-judge appeals panel agreed with the judge, allowing the workers to continue pursuing their lawsuit, but only for injuries they claimed to have suffered after Feb. 2, 2002. That date was six months before the workers notified the city of their plans to sue. State law requires such notice within 180 days of discovery of the injury.”Our whole point is that there are recurring injuries here,” said John Fognani, an attorney representing the workers. “What the case stands for is that with regard to recurring injuries that are associated to the same environmental episode, they can be identified by a later notice. The court said because of the recurring nature of the injury, as long as we provided notice of an episode of recurring symptoms, that was sufficient.”The lawsuit, filed in July 2003, alleged the city’s failure to correct certain problems with the airport’s design and construction led to contamination by mold in part of Concourse B. The lawsuit said United Airlines workers Terri Crandall of Westminster and Joan Hubbard of Highlands Ranch had been sickened by the alleged contamination, and that attorneys had spoken with other employees with similar concerns.A similar lawsuit alleging other types of contamination is pending in federal court in Denver.Attorneys for the workers have said they are seeking financial damages only in the state case, but are asking both the state and federal courts to order the city to pay fines and correct the problems.”Obviously we’re disappointed, but the lawsuit will continue, we’re comfortable with our positions and we’re confident we will prevail,” Denver City Attorney Cole Finnegan said.Hubbard was forced to resign in 2002 because of respiratory difficulties and other illnesses she believes were caused by the contamination, the lawsuit said. It said Crandall, who was still working at the airport, suffered similar effects.The lawsuit said the airport’s system of reclaiming potentially toxic deicing fluids was poorly designed, failing to reclaim an estimated 25 percent of fluids. The lawsuit said those fluids along with maintenance chemicals, fuel and raw sewage have been leaking into the ground below Concourse B for years.City officials have said one area that may have had mold had been sealed off last spring and slated for demolition, and that public safety had not been compromised.The appeals court judges said the trial judge had determined there were various types of environmental problems at DIA since it opened in 1995, but that the city had corrected most of them. The trial judge also determined that most of Hubbard’s symptoms disappeared after she quit working at the airport.The ruling said the workers’ testimony and medical records support their claims that their injuries were related to their work at the airport.
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