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Plant gas leak send 43 workers to hospital

An investigation is now under way after a gas leak at a tomato cannery plant caused breathing problems for at least 43 workers. Two of those workers remained hospitalized yesterday after the workplace accident. A question experienced personal injury lawyers in Maryland and elsewhere are asking is whether the rights of those workers to just compensation are being protected.

The gas involved in the accident was chlorine dioxide. Company officials say it's a fungicide and algaecide used in the cleaning and preparation of tomatoes. Lengthy exposure to the gas can lead to coughing, shortness of breath and bronchitis. Three hundred people had to be evacuated from the plant as a result of the leak and dozens spent time in the hospital.

According to the company this is the second time in four years that a chlorine dioxide leak has occurred at the plant. Despite the problems, a spokeswoman says it hasn't heard that anyone suffered any lingering damage from the exposure and that everyone is expected to be OK. She says all medical expenses for those who were admitted to the hospital will be paid for by the company.

In the meantime, while the broken system has been taken out of service pending an inspection, work at the plant has resumed.

What the workers involved in this case might not be aware of is that they may be entitled to some remuneration outside of any workers' compensation claims that they might seek. The only way to know for sure is with the help of an attorney with expertise in dealing with workplace injuries. Negotiation for benefits might be the best first avenue to pursue, followed by litigation only if necessary.

Source: Woodland Daily Democrat, "2 remain in hospital after Sunday incident at Pacific Coast Producers," Geoff Johnson and Matthew Kimel, Aug. 23, 2011

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