Settlement Revealed in Lawsuit Over County Building That Got Workers Sick

The Orange County Board of Supervisors has settled a lawsuit alleging unsafe conditions at the Eckhoff building in Orange, it was announced Wednesday afternoon.

“Details of the settlement are pending court approval and not available for release,” reads a statement from county Public Information Manager Jean Pasco.

The 500 or so county workers from the Social Services Agency claim they have breathed toxic air in the buildings at 800 and 840 N. Eckhoff St. in Orange, presumably due to chemicals in the ground there. County officials say they have tested the ground and it is safe.

The tug-of-war between workers, their union (Orange County Employees Association), executives and the Board led to the filing of a lawsuit, Gavin Kirk, et al v. County of Orange, in 2010. 

“The County opted to settle the lawsuit, filed in 2010, because of uncertainties with the outcome of a jury trial and the impact of a state law that allows any party found to be just 1% at fault to pay an entire economic damage award,” reads Pasco's statement.

“The County initially leased and began occupying the building at 840 N. Eckhoff Street in 1993. In 2009, the building was purchased after an independent site assessment found no environmental concerns and confirmed that the building was safe for business operations.

“Extensive testing of the soil and air in and around the Eckhoff facility was conducted over the past five years. The tests concluded that the building is safe and could be occupied by employees for regular use without restrictions.”

The statement concludes with this: “The County is committed to ensuring that all of its facilities remain safe for employees and the public. Employees have been informed of the settlement decision and encouraged to share any concerns with management. The County will conduct air-quality assessments as needed of the Eckhoff building going forward and share the results with employees.”

Here is how the OCEA informed members of the settlement yesterday:

Town Hall meetings at Eckhoff tomorrow

Dear OCEA member,

Today, the Board of Supervisors approved a legal settlement with a group County workers who worked at 840 N. Eckhoff Street in Orange. As many of you know, this lawsuit is related to possible unsafe conditions at Eckhoff when they were assigned to work in the building. As part of the settlement, the County has acknowledged no liability and contacted us to inform us they believe the building is safe.

Tomorrow, the County will conduct two town hall meetings to discuss the settlement, as well as past and current environmental tests in the building. We want you to know we will be there at both town hall meetings and will be reviewing the most recent testing conducted by the County, as well. (The meetings are at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. at the 744 Eckhoff Annex training room).

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns, and we hope to see you at tomorrow’s town hall meetings. The safety of OCEA members at work is our first concern now and always.

In Solidarity,

Jennifer Muir Beuthin
OCEA General Manager

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