A Tucker County man and three county employees have filed a lawsuit against a West Virginia construction company. The suit claims work done by the company in the Tucker County Courthouse dispersed toxic dust that directly caused the death of Virginia Wamsley, an employee of the assessor's office, and potentially harmed other employees and people who have entered the courthouse since March 6.
The lawsuit, which was filed by attorney David A. Sims on May 18, claims employees of G.A. Brown & Sons cut a hole in the side of the courthouse in order to install an elevator without taking any kind of protective measures to avoid the dispersal of harmful materials.
Consequently, the suit states, toxic dust, which Sims said contained lead, asbestos and possibly other harmful substances, was spread throughout the courthouse, and county employees, as well as visitors to the courthouse, were allegedly exposed to the dust.
Tucker County Courthouse
"The dust was so heavy it clogged the early voting machines," Sims said. "Anyone who participated in early voting or who has been to the courthouse since March 6 has been exposed."
Attempts to contact a representative for G.A. Brown & Sons were unsuccessful, and the company has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.
The suit calls G.A. Brown & Sons' failure to provide any protection for courthouse employees or visitors a violation of OSHA standards, standards in the construction industry and a violation of common sense.
The plaintiffs, which include Paul H. Wamsley Jr., Virginia Wamsley's son and the administrator of her estate, and county employees Sarah Bowley, Mable Roy and Marine Wolford, as well as anyone else exposed to the toxic dust, are seeking recovery from G.A. Brown & Sons for all damages caused to Virginia Wamsley, including personal injuries and wrongful death, as well as damages to any other individuals exposed to the dust.
The plaintiffs also have requested G.A. Brown & Sons be compelled to hire abatement professionals to eliminate the toxins released by the company's negligence. In addition, they are seeking an injunction restricting G.A. Brown & Sons from releasing additional toxic material into the courthouse.
Sims said Virginia Wamsley was a Tucker County resident and long-time county employee, as well as one of her husband's primary caretakers.
"She paid the bills, she cooked all of his meals - she literally did everything for her husband," Sims said.
"After being exposed to the dust, she immediately had difficulty breathing," he said. "The dust caused damage to her lungs, which caused her to contract pneumonia and other health problems."
After several hospitalizations and surgery, these health problems led to her death, Sims said.
"Mrs. Wamsley's doctors told her son (Paul Wamsley, Jr.) that her death was directly caused by the dust she had inhaled," he added.
Sims also said the courthouse has received only superficial cleaning. An environmental study, which is necessary to determine the appropriate cleaning methods, has not been executed, he said.
"Hopefully, the first action will be to close the courthouse and clean it according to OSHA standard," he said.