DEER PARK, Texas – A lawsuit is in the works against a company meant to handle benzene exposure testing in the wake of the massive chemical fire in Deer Park.
LabCorp is being sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars for spilling urine samples that possibly contained the cancer-causing chemical benzene, according to the lawsuit.
The urine samples were on their way to be tested for benzene. The lawsuit alleges that LabCorp mishandled the samples, leading to hundreds being destroyed or contaminated while in transit.
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Now the attorneys who represent several people in Deer Park say it will be more difficult to prove their clients had benzene in their systems.
"So, in the lawsuit, we allege a negligent act by the defendant Laboratory Corporation of America, which is commonly known as LabCorp," said Bill Odgen, the attorney for the plaintiffs. "What happened, allegedly, it's still an ongoing situation. We know for certain that a few of our clients (who) were exposed to chemicals during the ITC industrial fire went to get treatment at a medical facility, and the urine samples were given to testing to see if benzene was in their system and was causing their symptoms,"
The lawsuit claims LabCorp was negligent, which caused around 400 samples to become contaminated.
"We got word late (Wednesday) that a large percentage of samples that were presented to LabCorp for testing were compromised during transit," Ogden said. "Well over half of the samples they were transporting to a facility outside of Texas were damaged or contaminated to the point where the benzene tests cannot be completed,"
However, in a statement, LabCorp claimed only 60 samples were damaged:
“LabCorp can confirm that approximately 60 urine samples that were collected in Deer Park, Texas, on March 29, 2019, leaked while in transit to the LabCorp testing facility and could not be tested. We notified the facility that collected and submitted the specimens when we determined that the samples could not be tested. LabCorp takes the handling of every specimen very seriously, and we continue to investigate this matter. We do not have further information to provide at this time.”
Ogden and his team are demanding a jury trial, seeking monetary relief between $200,000 and $1 million for negligence on how the samples were handled.
“It's not like a plastic cup that's being balanced,” said Ogden. “It's a plastic cup with a screw on top. Somewhere along the lines of 60, 70, 80% of these samples were contaminated. It's (going to) make these peoples' cases a little more difficult, but I don't think impossible to prove because of the very large number of individuals in that area that went and sought medical treatment."
A Harris County judge Thursday granted a temporary restraining order against LabCorp. The order forces LabCorp to preserve any remaining samples and other evidence related to the incident for 14 days.
"We're gonna try to figure out what happened," Ogden said. Who was in charge? Who was in control of the environment and were the proper protocols put into effect that something like this doesn't happen? Or was this a freak accident? We don't know at this point."
Check out the timeline of events below: