From: Monona Rossol <actsnyc**At_Symbol_Here**>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Legal Liability for Undergraduate Teaching Labs
Date: Sat, 31 Oct 2015 08:41:44 -0400
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: 150bdeaf792-1648-ef26**At_Symbol_Here**

I both agree and disagree, Jim.  It means more money for the injured party and that the school can require confidentiality and keep the exhibits and testimony from the public eye and preserver their image.  I note schools don't put on their websites how many times they've been sued and for what. 

First, look at the mesothelioma cases in which RT Vanderbilt was a major defendant.  Most of the ones I'm retained in involving teachers.  

The first two major cases against RT Vanderbilt involved testimony in court.  The high awards and the publicity got the mines closed by 2009.  But since then, these cases have all settled (or will be settled since two I have now are on-going).  When there is no "news" and no coverage of the issue, the art departments forget.

As a result, I am still seeing this talc in university art departments in their potteries.  I saw it in three schools just this past year.  This means students and teachers are continuing to be exposed. Due to that exposure, these meso cases will be happening 40 or 50 years from now.

Then there are the mesothelioma cases in theater employees who worked with the asbestos sources in these old buildings and the lighting instruments.  They never went to trial.  The biggest one that would have saved lives was settled the night before trial.   All my great photos blown up large for the jury, all of the deposition testimony, all big names of the defendants were lost to the public record forever.

So about half the schools and theaters I inspect still have a few of the old asbestos lighting instruments squirreled away somewhere and/or an asbestos fire curtain.

It's the same story with theater accidents involving falls on stage.  The first major case in California went to an Administrative Law Judge trial and the Second in Georgia went to a federal court.  Both established that OSHA was well within their rights to cite for fall hazards on stage including at the front lip of the stage.  And they were news.

For a while we saw theaters and schools changing their stage safety policies. But no one takes OSHA to trial over stage citations any more.  And personal injury cases quickly settle since it is precedent that not having a written program and precautions for an existing fall hazard is the theater's or employer's fault.  So it's back to biz as usual on stage for many theaters.

There is nothing like a trial.  All of the exhibits and the testimony are public record and can be used to get the public's attention.  I often publish bits of the testimony and make a story of it that people can refer to and learn from.  I love it when the bad guys can be quoted to make the issue clear.  But when they settle instead, the publicity goes away and all of that evidence is gone forever.

Give me a trial any day.  Trials are improv-theater.  And usually, the good guys win.

Monona Rossol, M.S., M.F.A., Industrial Hygienist
President:  Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety, Inc.
Safety Officer: Local USA829, IATSE
181 Thompson St., #23
New York, NY 10012     212-777-0062


-----Original Message-----
From: Jim Kaufman <jim**At_Symbol_Here**LABSAFETYINSTITUTE.ORG>
Sent: Sat, Oct 31, 2015 6:22 am
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Legal Liability for Undergraduate Teaching Labs

Brian and interested colleagues,
This is one of the important topics that are part of all the courses taught by LSI.  I have served as an expert witness in cases involving faculty and injured students for the past 35 years. 
Attorneys always ask if I've ever testified in court. 
My reply is that there's good news and bad news.  
The bad news is that I have never testified in court.  The good news is that I've never testified in court.  Once people understand what one ought to do, both the defendant, the plaintiff and their attorneys understand that it would be appropriate to reach a settlement and not go to trial.
Please call if you would be happy to have a private conversation.
Regard - Jim 
James A. Kaufman, Ph.D.
The Laboratory Safety Institute (LSI)

A Nonprofit Educational Organization for
Safety in Science, Industry, and Education

192 Worcester Street, Natick, MA 01760-2252
508-647-1900  Fax: 508-647-0062 
Cell: 508-574-6264  Res: 781-237-1335
Skype: labsafe; 508-319-1225
Chair, ICASE Committee on Safety in Science Education
International Council for Associations of Science Education
P We thank you for printing this e-mail only if it is necessary
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**] On Behalf Of Brian Fortney
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 11:43 AM
Subject: [DCHAS-L] Legal Liability for Undergraduate Teaching Labs
Good Morning!
Please reply and send attachments to: brian.fortney**At_Symbol_Here**
(Too, please feel free to help me get my questions to an appropriate listserv, and help me connect with that listserv. Thank you!) I write to this list in the hopes of guidance and advice regarding how to determine legal liability for myself (first year, Tenure-Track Assistant Professor) in regards to understanding the legal liability I need to assume if I am ordered to oversee two undergraduate general Chem/Physics/Bio teaching labs.
Currently, a graduate student has been supervising/coordinating the undergraduate labs, but is set to graduate in another year. At that time (if ordered), I will become sole coordinator of the undergraduate labs, ordering, maintenance of safety equipment, etc. For the past many years, a tenured faculty colleague has had oversight of the labs, and all that they entail. Years ago, oversight used to be carried out by a permanent lab supervisor (non-tenure-track). Effective immediately or at the semester, it appears to be "added" to my job duties. (I was quite shocked.)
I am a new, first year, faculty member at The University of Texas at San Antonio. The teaching labs are situated within the College of Education and Human Development, with no apparent connection (that I can see) to colleagues in the College of Sciences. I must note, however, that I have no reason to doubt my colleague who currently has control and oversight of the lab coordinator/graduate student. I also have met my EH&S colleagues. I will  also ask them the following questions.
Specific questions I seek help/perspectives in answering:
  • Is it better to be appointed/ordered to take oversight of the undergraduate teaching labs, or "volunteer"/accept the new duties.
  • What personal/professional legal liability must I be aware of/consider as coordinator and "one with oversight of a graduate student--the current coordinator of labs"?
  • Whom might you suggest I contact to have an "official" account of my personal legal liability, and the legal liability of my colleagues also teaching in the labs, my Department Chair, and Dean?
  • Where might I find checklists for transfer of oversight of teaching labs? I assume they would include receiving electronic and hard-copy of:
    • Waste Separation and Disposal Protocols
    • Safety equipment maintenance logs
    • Chemical Transport Guidelines
    • Feel free to send me additional questions.
Thank you very much for helping on any and all points. Please respond to brian.fortney**At_Symbol_Here**
Brian Fortney, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Science Education and STEM Education
The University of Texas at San Antonio
College of Education and Human Development
Curriculum and Instruction
Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching
One UTSA Circle
San Antonio, TX. 78249
Ph: 210-458-7442

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