Wal-Mart Employees to Settle Material Handling Suit

Sixteen current and former Wal-Mart employees have settled a lawsuit with the company that installed a new rack system in the Wal-Mart DC in London, Ky. In the suit, the employees claimed they became light-headed and nauseated from carbon monoxide from gas-powered generators used to install a new rack system in the DC’s freezer units.

Unarco Materials Handling Inc., Springfield, Tenn., is being sued because it provided gas-powered generators for the rack installation, reports The Times-Tribune in Corbin, Ky. Atlas Material Handling was the subcontractor that installed the rack. Atlas settled out of court with a few of the plaintiffs. However, Atlas now faces a counterclaim filing.

The rack was installed in November 2005 during overnight hours while Wal-Mart employees were not in the building. According to court documents, work was stopped on Dec. 12 because employees “were suffering from symptoms due to exposure to the dangerous and harmful conditions inside the refrigerator/freezer building by the work being done by the defendants.”

The suit claims that Unarco should have known that the generators, welding and cutting torches used on painted metal would produce “significant and dangerous levels of colorless, odorless carbon monoxide.”

In addition, the suit states, Unarco did not properly supervise the safety of the installation work and did not provide warnings to Wal-Mart employees regarding the dangerous gases and fumes present in the building.

Plaintiffs in the suit claim they suffered severe and permanent injuries from their exposure to the fumes and gases.

U.S. District Judge Amul Tharpar said terms of the settlement and final judgment will be determined on Jan. 6.

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