Houston laborers claim exposure to irritating chemicals

Kelly Holleran Jul. 25, 2011, 6:15am

Two Houston men have filed suit against their employer, who they claim terminated them after they filed for workers' compensation benefits following an alleged exposure to asbestos.

Johnny Richardson and James Pelhaum claim they were working as labor foremen for defendant Lott Contractors on June 15, 2009, when they began experiencing a burning sensation on the exposed areas of their skin as they were cutting and grinding underground pipes.

"Plaintiffs inhaled chemical they believed to be asbestos," the suit filed July 14 in Jefferson County District Court states. "The chemical caused irritation on their throat, both eyes, face, neck and both arms."

On June 21, 2009, the plaintiffs informed Lott Contractors of their injuries and went to Nova Medical Centers on June 22 and June 30, 2009, to receive treatment, according to the complaint.

Following their injuries, Richardson and Pelhaum made workers' compensation claims, the complaint says.

When Richardson returned to work on July 16, 2009, he claims he was terminated for alleged destruction of company property. However, Richardson fought the allegation and the decision was reversed, according to the complaint.

Richardson did not last long, though. On July 17, 2009, he learned he was being discharged and was not eligible for rehire, the suit states. Pelhaum also was discharged in July 2009, the complaint says.

"The supervisor's expressed dissatisfaction constituted a mere pretext," the suit states. "The true reason for the discharge was retaliation for Plaintiffs' action in filing a workers' compensation claim."

Because of their job loss, Richardson and Pelhaum claim they lost wages and sustained mental anguish.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs are seeking actual and exemplary damages, plus attorneys' fess, interest, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Ronald E. Reynolds of Brown, Brown and Reynolds in Bellaire will be representing them.

The case has been assigned to Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court.

Case No. D190-520

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