Worcester: Contractor Sentenced To Jail For Exposing Teen To Asbestos
The Worcester area contractor convicted of exposing a teenager to asbestos during a demolition job was sentenced to serve 60 days of a 2 year jail sentence by a Superior Court judge. Daniel A. Watterson, 43, formerly of Webster, was convicted of child endangerment and three violations of the Commonwealth’s Clean Air Act.
Watterson hired the 17-year-old boy to help remove and dispose of insulation on two boilers in the basement of a house on June Street in Worcester. The teen removed the asbestos from the boilers and pipes by ripping off the insulation and chipping at it with a putty knife. The original indictment described the work this way: “The insulation was allegedly piled in the cellar space before being placed in trash bags and transported to a dumpster owned by Watterson for disposal. Authorities further allege that the workers broke down the boilers and its components, using sledgehammers and hacksaws. The components were later rejected by a local scrap yard for disposal due to visible asbestos.”
Watterson’s attorney asked for probation and no jail time for his client, saying that he too had been exposed to asbestos fibers, acted without intent or malice, and had already lost his home improvement contracting and oil burner technician licenses. The judge rejected those arguments and in addition to the jail sentence, ordered Watterson to pay for an annual medical examination for the teenager, and to reimburse the homeowner $1,675 for the costs they incurred in complying with state orders to decontaminate their basement.
This was the first use of the child endangerment statute in an asbestos case. We applaud the state for pursuing this case and others more aggressively, both to educate the public and to deter businesses from exposing young workers who are less aware of the hazards of asbestos contamination. If you believe asbestos exposure is occurring during renovation or demolition, contact the MassDEP Environmental Strike Force Hotline at 1-888-VIOLATE (846-5283) or the Attorney General’s Office at 617-727-2200.
The judge ordered lifetime medical monitoring of the asbestos exposed teenager because asbestos disease is not contracted immediately. Instead, it develops over time, and the time period between exposure to asbestos and the later development of disease is referred to as the latency period. All of the asbestos-related diseases including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and cancer, have long latency periods. In the case of mesothelioma, the latency period can be as little as 10 years or upwards of 39 or more years. Unfortunately, once embedded in lung tissue, asbestos cannot be exhaled or released. Since asbestos is a carcinogen, even a brief exposure to asbestos is capable of causing disease years later.
Thornton Law Firm is the first law firm to represent asbestos victims in Massachusetts and throughout New England and has done so since 1978. The courts have appointed us as coordinating counsel to represent the interests of all asbestos plaintiffs in cases filed in both Massachusetts state and federal courts. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, call the Boston asbestos lawyers of Thornton Law Firm at 888-491-9726 for a free, confidential consultation, or tell us your story online. Asbestos claims, like all legal claims, are subject to short time limits, so do not delay seeking legal assistance.