County Settles Lawsuit With Employees Over Alleged Toxic Building

The County of Orange has settled an ongoing lawsuit with county employees over allegations that employees experienced health problems caused by  toxins emanating from a county Social Services Agency building.

Details of the settlement terms remain secret pending court approval, according to a county news release.

The suit was filed in 2010 by nearly a dozen social service workers who allege their health problems are connected to working in the building located at 840 N. Eckhoff Street in Orange.

Several of the social workers filing suit against the county suffer from a host of autoimmune diseases such as lupus. One former employee has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer connected to industrial solvents such as the ones used in the building before it was occupied by the county.

In its news release, the county said it settled the suit “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 percent at fault to pay an entire economic damage award.”

The County began leasing and occupying the Eckhoff building in the late 1990s, after it had been used to produce oil drilling equipment.

The county ended up buying the building in 2009 after conducting environmental tests on the property that concluded it was safe for regular business operations. That same year, workers began complaining and several workers’ compensation cases were filed.

The county claims that testing in and around the Eckhoff building over the past five years have shown the building to be safe for employees and the public.

According to the county’s statement, the county will conduct air-quality assessments  at the Eckhoff building “as needed” and share the results with employees.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.