Pesticide application at adjacent business sickens plaintiff, results in claimed long-term injuries. $8M. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Terminix exterminator sprays poison into wall cavity to kill roaches but the chemical fumes escape into adjoining unit and sicken plaintiff.

The Case

  • Case Name: Atlas Ferrera v. Terminix International, Inc. et al.
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC657474
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, March 10, 2020
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, April 27, 2017
  • Type of Action: Exterminator Negligence, Negligence, Toxins
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Norman Tarle
  • Plaintiffs:
    Atlas Ferrera, 37, makeup artist.
  • Defendants:
    Terminix International Company Limited Partnership
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $8,000,000
  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $3,000,000 

    Future: $5,000,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 13 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 5 hours.
  • Jury Polls: 12-0 on liability and causation, 9-3 on damages.
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Motion for JNOV; Motion for New Trial; Motion for RFA Costs.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Law Offices of Brian Breiter by Brian J. Breiter, Chance J. Pardon and Steve A. Hoffman, Los Angeles.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP by Frederick J. Ufkes, Los Angeles.

    Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP by David J. Alfini, Chicago, IL.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):
    Nachman Brautbar, M.D., toxicology/occupational medicine, Los Angeles.
     
    Dr. Kwon. (Treating ER doctor.)
     
    Andrew Berman, M.D., ENT. (Retained and provided treatment.)
     
    Jan Merman, M.D., neurology, Los Angeles. (Retained and provided treatment.)
     
  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):
    Marion Fedoruk, M.D., toxicology/occupational medicine, Irvine.
     
    Hamid Djalilian, M.D., ENT, Orange.
     
    Edwin Amos, M.D., neurology, Santa Monica.
  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Paul Bello, pesticide application.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Jennifer Fox, pesticide application.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On May 1, 2015, plaintiff Atlas Ferrera, 37, a makeup artist, was using the bathroom at work when he was allegedely engulfed in a cloud of smoke. When he went next door to the other business, he learned that a Terminix technician had recently completed a pest control application into a joint wall shared with the neighboring business that had been shut down due to a roach infestation. 

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendant negligently exposed plaintiff to toxic pesticides including pyrethrines, pyrethroids and noenicitinoids, that caused acute respiratory symptoms, complete loss of smell, complete loss of taste, and chronic migraines.

    Also, that Terminix failed to record what pesticides were applied, where, and how much, in violation of state law. That defendant claimed to have lost its own investigation report concerning the incident.

     

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Terminix denied Ferrera was exposed to anything and denied it was negligent. Terminix maintained at trial that it followed all applicable regulations and product manufacturer instructions and guidance.

    Terminix filed numerous motions in limine that plaintiff’s experts’ testimony was lacking in foundation and speculative based on the Supreme Court’s decision in  Sargon Enterprises v. USC. These motions were denied. Terminix’s expert witnesses testified that none of the components of the materials applied were capable of causing the permanent loss of smell or taste and that plaintiff’s claimed symptoms and findings on diagnostic tests were inconsistent and physiologically impossible.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Ferrera claimed he immediately had exposure symptoms and took himself to the emergency room. Ferrera sustained acute respiratory symptoms. Subsequently, Ferrera claimed that he also suffered a complete and permanent loss of smell and taste and he also claims he suffers from chronic migraines.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: Waived.
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: Waived.
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: N/A
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: N/A

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $499,999
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $50,000

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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