With today’s health costs. $7,500 would barely pay for a week’s worth of treatment for asbestos cancer. Nonetheless, Ab and Mina Hashemi of Mountain View, California, are settling for the maximum amount that California state law allows in small claims court.
The judge who presided over the hearing, Stephen Yep, assured the couple that the “…court would give you quite a bit more than you are asking,” adding “…what we have here goes well over $7,500.” The Hashemis chose not to pursue a full-blown lawsuit, which might have taken years to resolve. Ab Hashemi was primarily concerned about his furniture and a number of business suits that had to be discarded due to asbestos dust that contaminated the couple’s apartment during what the local newspaper described as “a botched roofing job” on the nearly 40-year-old complex. According to other tenants, the workers were unaware of the asbestos contained in the buildings’ “popcorn” ceilings and drywall tape as they commenced to pound “violently” on the roof–to the point that they broke through to the units below.
According to a spokesperson for the company that owns the apartment complex, Prometheus, tenants received prompt notification and were evacuated from the units, which were quickly sealed off. The argument between Hashemi and his former landlord is based on whether or not the furniture and clothing are even usable–despite of the company’s decontamination efforts and offer to have the items professionally cleaned. During the hearing in small claims court, Hashemi pointed out OSHA standards indicating that not only would dry-cleaning the suits not rid the fabric of asbestos fibers, but would most likely contaminate other clothing as well. According to Hashemi, the value of the destroyed furniture and clothing is nearly twice what he can legally collect in small claims court. Despite the protestations of Prometheus’ lawyer, who insisted that the items had not been “destroyed,” Judge Yep issued his ruling in favor of the plaintiff, stating that he did not believe the items were usable… particularly after “being exposed to asbestos four times the level [of safe limits established by the EPA].” In addition, Judge Yep advised the Hashemis to have medical checkups.