- December 15, 2022
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Product Liability
Modern HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems are so much more than a luxury comfort for the summer and winter months.
Climate control can be a life-sustaining essential during extreme weather, especially for people with easily aggravated health conditions. Temperature aside, present-day architecture is designed with HVAC systems in mind, and often relies on these systems to supply oxygen to, and remove contaminants from, insulated indoor spaces.
HVAC systems are quite complex, and malfunctions can be serious. All-in-one systems can potentially leak both carbon monoxide and freon into main ventilation ducts.
The International Mechanical Code provides guidelines for how mechanical ventilation systems should work, in order to prevent accidents, and OSHA provides additional regulations for some specific industries.
Large buildings with aging HVAC systems are some of the most likely to develop issues, so owners of these building should be especially careful to arrange expert upkeep on a regular basis. When an HVAC system malfunction injures or kills someone, it’s generally due to faulty design, installation, or maintenance.
An Employee Death at the James Brown Arena May Be Connected with Freon Inhalation
What happened at the James Brown Arena on November 18th, 2022, is still under investigation, and has garnered some contradictory speculation.
At least two things are certain at this point: there was a freon leak in the arena’s HVAC system, and the first employee to attempt to address the leak is now dead.
The employee’s cause of death has not been officially determined, and the Richmond County Coroner’s Office is planning an autopsy. However, his death and the freon leak would be a fairly extraordinary coincidence if they turned out to be unrelated. Some publications are already referring to this as a gas leak fatality.
The employee’s name was Rex Broadwater. His coworkers called 911 at around 7:12pm on the day of the accident, to report that he was unresponsive and might have inhaled something from the air conditioning unit he was servicing. By the time emergency services arrived, another employee was reportedly fixing the leak, the arena had been evacuated, and a concert scheduled to begin at 8:00 had been cancelled.
Broadwater was pronounced dead at the scene. He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Edita Perea Broadwater.
Getting Fair Compensation for Workplace Deaths Is Tricky, but Not Impossible
Property owners always have a duty to keep their properties as hazard-free as possible for anyone who has a legal right to be there. Theoretically, this includes employees.
So, for example, if we assume that the freon leak was what killed Broadwater, the James Brown Arena would likely be responsible for his death. The responsibility would be even clearer if the leak was cause by past neglect, or if Broadwater was unqualified to service the HVAC system and was allowed to do so anyway.
The catch is that worker’s comp law generally blocks employees – and their families – from suing their employers over workplace accidents. Instead, families can only collect compensation through the worker’s comp system itself. Worker’s comp settlements are faster and easier, but also much smaller, than settlements from civil suits.
However, worker’s comp law does not prevent families from suing third parties who share some of the responsibility for a workplace accident. So, if any outside company performed work on the HVAC system before Broadwater did, and that company created or ignored a deadly flaw, the family might be able to sue for full wrongful death compensation after all.
If you are Edita Perea Broadwater, or if you have also lost a loved one to a workplace accident in Georgia, reach out to The Stoddard Firm for a free consultation on your case.