By Sarah Mansheim
Workers who were employed at the Maxwelton Veterans Administration office have filed a lawsuit alleging that the building where they worked exposed them to unhealthy chemicals.
Cherri Hunter, Jeffrey Ratliff, Anna Morre-Ratliff, Rebecca L. Bridges, Joyce Gum, Deborah P. Sparks, Julie Hanna, Michele Malesky, Sean Negolas and Sandra K. Payne have each filed a civil action suit alleging negligence against the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation (GVEDC), which owns the Rahall Technology and Business Center building, where the VA clinic used to be located. Several other businesses that operated in the building, and the heating and cooling companies that installed the building’s HVAC systems, are also named in the suit.
The businesses listed in the suit are the GVEDC, Mountain Lumber Company LLC, Harper Engineering PLLC, Southern Air Inc., Performance HVAC Systems LLC, MC Industries LLC, ECER Technologies LLC, Mountain Air HVAC LLC, and Kellwood Company LLC.
The Rahall Technology and Business Center is a large commercial building that houses several tenants. The suit alleges that the GVEDC “improperly leased” portions of the building to Mountain Lumber Company and Ecer Technologies, allowing “commercial and industrial companies to operate in the same building” as the VA clinic.
Further, the suit says, Mountain Lumber Company, MC Industries and Ecer Technologies “performed activities that improperly emitted and caused to disperse in the building hazardous substances including volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and other chemicals.”
Those chemicals caused the plaintiffs to “become ill and suffer physical injury, and ultimately forced plaintiffs to vacate the … property,” the suit says.
The clinic originally closed in June 2014 after staff members complained of headaches, dizziness and a burning sensation to the eyes. The clinic reopened Sept. 22, 2014, but was shuttered again in October 2014. After repairs were made to the building’s HVAC system, the clinic re-opened in Feb. 2015, but the air quality issue re-occurred, and the clinic site closed for good in April 2015.
The suit alleges that the HVAC system installed in the Rahall building was defective, having “improper air return, improper exhaust and ventilation, and with a design and/or installation that was unsafe.”
Kellwood is named in the suit as having manufactured textiles in the Rahall Building before the GVEDC acquired it, and that the company knew that formaldehyde and other chemical residue was present on the site.
The plaintiffs are demanding a jury trial.