(WSVN) - A group of workers went down to the Florida Keys after Hurricane Irma to earn some money, but it ended up costing them more than they ever expected. As 7’s Andrew Scheinthal reports, they are “Sick of Waiting” for their bills to be paid.
Sitting behind a desk filled with expensive medical bills, Coral Gables Attorney Ivette Labied is fighting for a group of South Florida workers.
Ivette Labied: “You don’t have 12 people getting sick at the same time, out of the blue.”
The workers were hired to clear out hurricane damage at a hotel in the Upper Keys. On Oct. 20, they were working inside a building when they started to feel sick.
Johanna (via translator): “I started coughing nonstop, and I started throwing up.”
Johanna says she smelled gas, and asked her supervisor for help.
Markees Crummel: “They all started falling out, choking.”
The supervisor, Markees Crummel, spoke to us from North Carolina. He also inhaled the gas as he helped evacuate the workers.
He says they found out an industrial pressure washer, being operated by another crew outside the building, was sending fumes inside.
Markees Crummel: “And it was a big generator. The only thing it was sending us was the carbon monoxide.”
The workers were taken to a local hospital and treated for carbon monoxide exposure. But recovering from the hospital bills is going to take much longer.
Markees Crummel: “I actually had to do a couple of CAT scans, because they said the irritation had swollen up my lungs like a blood clot.”
All the employees filed for workers’ compensation through the company that hired them and its insurance company.
But their claims were denied.
Ivette Labied: “They are now making it more difficult for injured workers to seek any type of recourse from an insurance company.”
Labied says Florida’s worker’s compensation law requires the employee to provide “clear and convincing” evidence they were exposed to a toxic substance. The employee also has to show the actual levels to which they were exposed, and then they have to prove those levels are what made them sick.
Ivette Labied: “To get an expert right there and then, right there when the exposure happened, it’s almost impossible. The minute that you open windows, that gas goes out, and it’s gone.”
7News reached out to the attorney for the company that hired the workers and the insurance company. Neither returned ur calls were not returned.
As for the workers, they say it will be a long time before they recover from this financial storm.
Markees Crummel: “It put me in a real big bind.”
The case is now going before a mediator who could decide to give the workers some relief for their medical bills. It’s a glimmer of hope for this group who are sick of waiting for the money they so desperately need.
Labied is now looking for the company that was operating the pressure washers near the building’s ventilation system. She says they could be facing a negligence case.
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