The city of Lawrence and one of its employees have asked a judge to decide whether the company that runs Brandon Woods Retirement Community failed to prevent dumped chemicals from burning a sanitation worker.
Attorney Brian Johnson filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Douglas County District Court on behalf of Stacy T. Patterson and the city, alleging that Life Care Services LLC was negligent in placing the "toxic liquid" in a trash bin rather than properly disposing of it.
"There are specific guidelines for disposing for that type of chemical," Johnson said in an interview.
According to the lawsuit, Patterson was emptying a trash bin in March 2005 when the chemical inside splashed on his face. The chemical was an industrial kitchen cleaner, Johnson said, and in large quantity.
Employees at the center, 1501 Inverness Drive, put the chemical in the trash bin illegally, the lawsuit claims. Brandon Woods itself is not named as a defendant.
Judy Buxo, director of operations for Life Care Services LLC, said the company had not yet been served the lawsuit and declined comment until then.
Bob Yoos, solid waste manager for Lawrence, said the city contacted employees at Brandon Woods after the incident and conducted "educational training" there.
To his knowledge, the city hasn't received any other complaints about the center, and employees have stopped placing those types of chemicals in trash bins.
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"Hopefully, they're disposing of those correctly," Yoos said.
But Yoos said Brandon Woods cut off contact with the city after talk of a lawsuit.
Johnson said Patterson and the company had discussed settling the matter before it reached the courts. But Patterson's injuries worsened and he has said he may have permanent injuries, including some nerve damage.
Patterson is asking the judge to award damages in excess of $75,000, according to the suit.
The matter likely will hinge on the amount of chemical in the trash bin, Yoos said. It's acceptable for someone to throw out a small amount of cleaner - a spray bottle of window cleaner, for example. But larger amounts likely would violate state environmental laws.
Mike Heideman, spokesman for Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the state hadn't received any complaints about Life Care Services LLC.