Fired gun range employees say they breathed in lead because of poor ventilation

By Nicholas Malfitano | Oct 10, 2018

PHILADELPHIA – Former employees of a Philadelphia-based shooting range allege they were fired after filing Workers' Compensation requests for supposedly suffering respiratory-related injuries, while the range owner says their claims should be barred from state court under the Worker’s Compensation Act.

Chris Garber, Matthew Sadoon and James Kelly of Philadelphia; Justin Mateer of Verona; Dave Petnick of Wayne; and Justin Richway of West Chester collectively filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Aug. 20 versus James J. Colosimo of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Yuri Zalzman and The Gun Range, LLC, both of Philadelphia.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs were employees of The Gun Range who claimed the facility had a “non-functioning, defective and/or inoperable” ventilation system which allowed the accumulation of lead and other particles to remain in the air in the interior of the premises, along with issues of proper cleaning of the range and bullet removal, which the plaintiffs say were not remedied.

As a result, the plaintiffs allege they suffered ongoing fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and headaches and various other ills and injuries.

“Garber also informed Zalzman that the VA has reported his condition and the cause of his condition to OSHA. Justin Mateer, Dave Petnick, Matt Sadoon, Justin Ridgeway, and James Kelly were experiencing similar symptoms as Christopher Garber and they all informed Zalzman that they were obtaining lead testing and that they would also be pursuing worker’s compensation claims for the injuries they sustained,” the suit states.

“On Sept. 23, 2016, after expressing their concern over the health and safety violations, and their intent on pursuing worker compensations claims, Chris Garber, Justin Mateer, Dave Petnick, Matthew Sadoon, Justin Ridgeway, and James Kelly were all terminated from their employment at the Gun Range. Yuri Zalzman was aware of the employees’ intentions of filing worker’s compensation claims he acted in his individual capacity and terminated all plaintiffs. Plaintiffs’ termination was in retaliation for their notification to their employer that they would be pursuing benefits pursuant to and exercising their legal rights under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.”

The suit states the defendants failed to provide an adequate ventilation in the range, failed to take any action to provide warning or caution in an area where there was the defect in the real estate of the non-operational ventilation system and failed to exercise the degree of care and regard for the rights and safety of the plaintiffs as was required under the circumstances, among other charges.

On Aug. 27, The Gun Range and Zalzman filed preliminary objections, contending the plaintiffs could not prove they filed a Workers' Compensation claim before they were fired and thus, cannot sustain a cause of action for wrongful termination. Furthermore, the objections stated the Worker’s Compensation Act was the sole remedy for the charges involved and deprived the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas of jurisdiction for the case.

For counts of negligence and wrongful discharge, the plaintiffs are seeking damages jointly and/or severally, in excess of $50,000, together with interest and costs of suit.

The plaintiffs are represented by Edith A. Pearce and Nicole Vitale of Pearce Law Firm, in Philadelphia.

The defendants are represented by Rufus A. Jennings of Deasey Mahoney & Valentini, plus Daniel J. Rucket and John H. McCarthy of Rawle & Henderson, all also in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180603459

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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Deasey Mahoney & Valentini Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas

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