Deville worked at Exide’s hazardous waste treatment and storage plant in Vernon for 29 years. At that location, Exide recycled automotive batteries, which recovered the lead used in the batteries. Deville was a forklift driver and furnace operator.
On April 24, 2013, the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) ordered Exide to suspend operations in Vernon because plant operations were causing discharge of illegal amounts of lead into the air, water, and soil.
Before operations at Exide’s Vernon facility were halted, Deville experienced what he calls two “profound” health-related incidents at work. On one occasion, Deville lost consciousness while cleaning one of the facility’s furnaces. On the second occasion, which also arose in connection with cleaning one of the furnaces, Deville felt dizzy, left the furnace, and went to a restroom where he produced a urine stream that he says was black in color.
In June 2016, more than three years after these two alleged incidents and suspension of operations at Exide’s Vernon plant, Deville sued Exide and certain Individual Defendants, alleging unspecified injuries caused by exposure to lead and other hazardous chemicals while working at the Vernon facility.
Deville alleged he was injured by defendants’ collective failure to properly use and store hazardous and toxic substances at the Vernon plant, to disclose fully and accurately the risks presented to human health presented by the chemicals used at the plant, to remediate or clean up contaminants, and to provide proper safety equipment and training.
The Individual Defendants argued, among other things, that all of Deville’s claims were precluded by workers’ compensation exclusivity principles. The trial court sustained the Individual Defendants’ demurrer without leave to amend.
Exide separately demurred to the operative complaint, making the same workers’ compensation exclusivity argument (among others) on which the Individual Defendants had prevailed. The trial court sustained Exide’s demurrer without leave to amend and dismissed the case.
The dismissals were affirmed in the unpublished case of Deville v. Bloch.
The Individual Defendants’ demurrer was properly sustained without leave to amend because the operative complaint alleges the Individual Defendants were acting within the scope of their employment and did not allege any facts that would satisfy the two exceptions to workers’ compensation exclusivity rules when individual defendants (as opposed to an employer) are sued.
Similarly, Exide’s demurrer to the bulk of Deville’s claims was properly sustained because the operative complaint does not adequately allege facts establishing any of the elements of the fraudulent concealment of injury exception to workers’ compensation exclusivity on which Deville relies to maintain his action.