CHARLESTON - A St. Albans man who suffered severe burns over more than half of his body after a chemical explosion at his job is seeking more than $4 million from the company.
Charles Fields and his wife, Sarah, filed the suit Feb. 8 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Catalyst Refiners.
Charles Fields worked as a chemical operator at the Nitro plant. According to the suit, he was inspecting a "fumes free reactor" on Oct. 9, 2007. However, while he was making his inspection, hydrogen peroxide was mistakenly pumped into a reactor containing silver nitrate, silver oxide and nitric acid, which caused a chemical explosion.
As a result of the explosion, Fields suffered severe burns over more than half of his body. The suit says he spent 20 minutes in a chemical emergency shower to remove the chemicals then was rushed to the burn clinic at Cabell Huntington Hospital, where he remained for at least 20 days, 10 of which were spent in a medically-induced coma.
Fields claims he was not required to wear protective clothing on his arms, legs and body while performing inspections, despite OSHA regulations.
According to the suit, Fields has scarring over 50 percent of his body and will live the rest of his life with itching and skin problems, along with permanent injury, both mechanical and cosmetic to his left hand.
"Because of Charles Fields' over-exposure to silver during the explosion he has a condition called argyria which involves an obvious bluish-grey pigmentation of his sclera, especially in the inner corners and bluish-grey hair and bluish-grey pigmentation of his skin, particularly his face," the suit says.
Fields claims he has to wear a pressure vest at least 23 hours a day to reduce scarring, but the vest causes such pain that he is unable to wear it for the full 23 days.
According to the suit, Fields is now unable to be exposed to the sun, suffers constant anxiety and nervousness and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome. He claims he can no longer play normally with children, including the three that he and his wife plan to adopt. He can no longer play sports, participate in most outdoor activities or life objects even as heavy as a household vacuum cleaner, the suit says.
Fields also claims he can no longer participate in normal sexual relations with his wife, which has caused them to separate for a period of time after the accident.
Sarah Fields claims she has been required to shoulder most of the child care responsibility and take care of the household, which are duties she shared with her husband previous to the accident.
According to the suit, Sarah Fields have been forced to vicariously endure the pain and suffering of her husband, which has made her become nervous and take medications for her emotionally upset condition. Fields claims her once happy and harmonious relationship was strained almost to the breaking point.
The Fields' claim Catalyst is responsible for Charles Fields injuries by failing to train their workers in the need for protective clothing and the danger presented by the chemicals with which they work.
Charles Fields seeks $1,200,000 for lost wages, fringe benefits and lost future earnings; $850,000 for cosmetic disfigurement and for loss of past and future enjoyment of life; and $500,000 for past and future pain and suffering. Sarah Fields seeks $1,500,000 for loss of consortium. Both seek an amount to compensate them for the fair market value of past and future nursing services.
Attorney Richard Neely is representing Fields. The case has been assigned to Judge James Stucky.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number 08-C-274