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Tenants Intentionally Exposed to Asbestos—Builders Profit

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Denver, COIt's unfathomable that anyone in America would knowingly endanger the lives of others for sheer profit. But attorney Charles Torres says that Bascom Group, a company that purchases and renovates depressed apartment complexes, needlessly exposed the residents of Highline Terrace to asbestos. "Their intentional actions were outrageous," said Torres, whose firm represents the Plaintiffs--105 residents.

Torres said that Bascom and other defendants (including OMNI,, their onsite agent) created a nightmare for numerous low income persons living at Highline Terrace, in the interest of saving money.

"In June 2006 a state of Colorado inspector was tipped off that there was asbestos in the complex and the builder was trying to remove it without permits," Torres explained. The Colorado Health Department determined that there was heavy asbestos dust in most of the complex and that the remodeling was disturbing the asbestos, causing it to become friable and airborne. The inspector immediately shut down the complex and occupants had to evacuate almost immediately; they barely had time to pack their clothes—clothes that could contain asbestos dust.

"With few exceptions, pets and furniture were left behind to the care and trust of Bascom and Omni," said Torres, "because Omni told the occupants they could return in a few weeks. But they had no intention of quickly abating the asbestos or making the personal property of the tenants available to them. As it turned out, occupants waited months to have a fraction of their property returned.

The occupants were housed in a high school gym if they had no other housing available. Vouchers were provided by the city (nothing from Bascom) for hotel rooms but only for a week. Most of the hotels were located in run down and dangerous neighborhoods and in many cases, children were housed there.

When OMNI and Bascom finally returned property to Highline Terrace's occupants, they made a mean-spirited decision: they decided to not return clothing that the residents left behind. As well, specialized cleaning was available to remove asbestos from clothing, but OMNI and Bascom elected the cheaper route of discarding the residents' clothes."

Wait, it gets worse! After the tenants were evacuated, OMNI and Bascom provided minimal security for the premises, resulting in the predictable theft of residents' property (and documented by the Denver Police Department). When tenants were finally allowed to pick up their property, they discovered that many of their items were missing, damaged and/or destroyed.

Back to the asbestos. Torres alleges the Defendants knew at least three months before purchasing the complex that asbestos was present and a major health concern. "They had no intention of abating asbestos in a manner such that residents at Highline would not be exposed to harmful asbestos fiber and debris," Torres said, who claims Bascom didn't warn occupants about asbestos exposure so they could continue to collect rents during renovations.

Asbestos fibers are so small that they hang suspended in air for extended periods of time following disturbance and the lungs cannot remove an asbestos fiber that has speared into lung tissue. Torres claims the occupants of Highline Terrace were enclosed in buildings while renovation took place and most areas were not sealed off with plastic to protect residents living in the same building. And residents included several young children.

"It is a known fact that children have a higher risk for negative outcome once coming in contact with asbestos," said Torres, "yet Defendants consistently left areas under renovation open and accessible to children at the complex."

And here's the icing on the cake: OMNI hired a company to remove asbestos that wasn't licensed nor certified to do so! "Colorado law requires that owners of buildings containing asbestos and undergoing remodeling first obtain a permit from the state and require that such buildings first be tested for the presence of asbestos prior to any planned remodeling or renovation," said Torres.

"We are currently in the discovery process and a date will be set for a trial by jury in the next few weeks," added Torres. "There is a real strong case against Bascom of intentionally ignoring asbestos in the complex and putting lives at risk."

The Law firm of Charles H. Torres handles all types of personal injury cases. Mr. Torres has obtained large settlements and favorable verdicts for his clients in a variety of areas including enviromental matters, securities matters, personal injury and medical malpractice.

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