A Northeast Washington man has been awarded $225,000 by a U.S. District Court jury after he contracted silicosis while working on a Metro construction job eight years ago.
Cleam Caldwell, 46, who operated heavy machinery while working on the Metro subway tunnel that connects the Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn stations, asserted that he contracted silicosis, a lung disease caused by inhalation of bits of sand or dust, while working on the project. Caldwell's attorney, David Hilton, said at the eight-day trial that Caldwell was restricted in the kind of work he could do after he contracted the disease.
At the trial, which ended Thursday, attorneys for the Bechtel Corp., a consulting firm responsible for safety on the Metro site, told the court that the firms should not be held responsible for any discease Caldwell has, according to Bechtel attorney James W. Greene.
"We contended that Bechtel acted as a reasonable construction consultant under all the circumstances," said Greene. Bechtel was the only defendant.
However, Caldwell, who worked on the project from February 1972 until July 1973, said that shortly after beginning work in the tunnel, he noticed that the dust was so heavy that it filled his nose and mouth. He subsequently developed a cough and began to spit up blood, the court was told.
U.S. District Judge Howard F. Corcoran originally ruled in 1978 that Bechtel could not be held liable for Caldwell's illness. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals here ruled last August that Caldwell could sue.
Caldwell could not be reached for comment yesterday. His attorney, Hilton, said Caldwell was working in a different, less arduous line of construction work. Caldwell's duties while working on the Metro job were to operate a large machine that removed debris blasted from the face of the tunnel and transport it to the end of the tunnel in a process known in the construction industry as "mucking," according to court papers.