Florida Senate - 2019 (NP) SB 52 By Senator Gibson 6-00139-19 201952__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act for the relief of former employees of Fairfax 3 Street Wood Treaters; directing the Department of 4 Health to collaborate with the National Institute for 5 Occupational Safety and Health to develop specified 6 data for certain purposes; providing an appropriation 7 to compensate the former employees for injuries and 8 damages sustained as result of the negligence of the 9 Department of Environmental Protection, the Department 10 of Financial Services, and the Department of Health; 11 providing a limitation on the payment of attorney 12 fees; providing an effective date. 13 14 WHEREAS, Wood Treaters, Inc., later known as Wood Treaters, 15 LLC, was established as a Florida corporation on May 12, 1980, 16 and operated a wood treating facility from 1980 to 2010 at a 17 12.5-acre industrial complex known as Fairfax Street Wood 18 Treaters, located at 2610 Fairfax Street in Jacksonville, and 19 WHEREAS, Wood Treaters, LLC’s operations were inherently 20 dangerous to employees because the company used a wood treating 21 preservative called chromated copper arsenate, which includes a 22 concentrated inorganic form of arsenic, to pressure treat 23 utility poles, pilings, heavy timber items, and plywood lumber 24 products, and 25 WHEREAS, there is an extensive body of scientific evidence 26 documenting the toxicity of arsenic exposure when arsenic is 27 used to treat wood, and 28 WHEREAS, employees at the Fairfax Street Wood Treaters site 29 were injured by excessive, persistent, and prolonged exposure to 30 toxic levels of arsenic while performing their work duties, and 31 WHEREAS, a catastrophic failure of the State of Florida to 32 enforce measures designed to protect employees from toxic 33 substances in the workplace resulted in the employees’ exposure 34 to arsenic, and 35 WHEREAS, over the course of its operating life, Wood 36 Treaters, LLC treated thousands of wood products, employed 37 hundreds of individuals at the Fairfax Street Wood Treaters 38 location, and was known to government regulators due to its 39 reckless and grossly negligent use and mismanagement of arsenic, 40 and 41 WHEREAS, the Department of Environmental Protection, the 42 Department of Financial Services, and the Department of Health 43 ignored the hazardous conditions that employees at the Fairfax 44 Street Wood Treaters site were working in, which were 45 exacerbated by employees receiving no training, protective gear, 46 or warnings and no guidance alerting them to the risks posed to 47 their health and safety by exposure to arsenic, and 48 WHEREAS, the State of Florida recognizes an equitable 49 obligation to redress the injuries and damages employees 50 sustained from exposures to arsenic as a result of the 51 catastrophic failure of the Department of Environmental 52 Protection, the Department of Financial Services, and the 53 Department of Health to exercise their duties, NOW, THEREFORE, 54 55 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 56 57 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 58 found and declared to be true. 59 Section 2. The Department of Health is directed to 60 collaborate with the National Institute for Occupational Safety 61 and Health to develop accurate and reliable data on the exposure 62 levels and the duration and frequency of exposures to arsenic 63 for all former employees of Wood Treaters, LLC who worked at the 64 Fairfax Street Wood Treaters site, so as to ascertain the risks 65 to their health posed by such exposure. 66 Section 3. The sum of $10 million is appropriated from the 67 General Revenue Fund to the Office of the Attorney General for 68 the relief of former employees of Wood Treaters, LLC who 69 demonstrate personal injuries and damages resulting from 70 excessive, persistent, and prolonged exposure to arsenic as a 71 result of the work environment at the Fairfax Street Wood 72 Treaters site, and who demonstrate that such injuries and 73 damages were sustained as a result of the failure of state 74 agencies to exercise their statutory duties to control the 75 unlawful release of arsenic. The Attorney General shall 76 compensate each eligible former employee in the amount of 77 $100,000. 78 Section 4. The amount awarded under this act is intended to 79 provide the sole compensation for all present and future claims 80 arising out of the factual situation described in this act which 81 resulted in injuries and damages to former employees of Wood 82 Treaters, LLC. The total amount paid for attorney fees relating 83 to this claim may not exceed 25 percent of the amount awarded 84 under this act. 85 Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.