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Company, 3 survivors settle lawsuit from nitrogen leak at Gainesville poultry plant
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Hall County Firefighters gather outside Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, at Foundation Food Group before entering a door near a loading dock. A day earlier six people were killed following a liquid nitrogen leak at the plant. - photo by Scott Rogers

The lawsuit filed by three co-workers who survived the Foundation Food Group liquid nitrogen leak was settled before a hearing about alleged discovery abuses by the defendants, according to court documents.

Jason Adams, Cristian Faur and Ryan Cook were among the workers at the Memorial Park Drive plant when the deadly leak happened Jan. 28, 2021.

Six people were killed and 12 people were transported to Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

Attorney Matt Cook filed the lawsuit against Messer Gas LLC, the company that installed the liquid nitrogen immersion spiral freezer at the plant.

The “bubbler tube,” which is used to detect when the liquid nitrogen might overflow, was found damaged and displaced, and a support bracket was missing.

Cook said the three men tried to help rescue people from the leak, leading to mental and physical pain and suffering.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

During the two years of legal battles stemming from the leak, a second damaged bubbler tube was found in another plant in Stillmore, Georgia. A Messer employee sent a photo of it to his superior, but the second tube was not preserved.

Cook said he and his firm have continued to pursue “who knew about the destroyed evidence, when they knew and what they knew.”

The Gainesville attorney later received another 21,000 documents that had not been seen for two years.

Gwinnett County State Court Judge Emily Brantley and other judges presiding over the case have issued sanctions against Messer regarding the discovery process.

Brantley wrote Feb. 6 that a review of the records revealed that Messer “may have committed discovery abuses.”

A hearing was set for 1 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13, before Brantley for Messer to show “why this court should not impose sanctions on (the) defendants for abuses and any fraud perpetuated on or contempt of this court.”

But the case was settled before the hearing.

Messer spokeswoman Amy Ficon previously told The Times the company disagreed with the court orders issued by Brantley and fellow judges on sanctions.

“Regardless, Messer will comply with the ruling, just as we have cooperated – and continue to cooperate – fully with all investigators, including (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the (U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board),” Ficon previously told The Times regarding the judges’ orders. “Messer is committed to the shared goal of finding the causes of this incident and doing its part to prevent such an incident from ever happening again.

Ficon sent a statement regarding the most recent settlement:

“Messer has reached resolutions with Jason Adams, Cristian Faur and Ryan Cook. Messer has now resolved all lawsuits arising out of this tragedy other than two alleged injury cases that were filed right before the statute of limitations expired at the end of January.”

Regarding the scheduled hearing about possible discovery violations, Ficon said the company “cooperated fully with discovery in the Adams case and complied with the Court’s December 20, 2022 order in advance of the hearing.” 

“Because of the resolution, the hearing was no longer necessary,” Ficon said.

Cook said he believed the three men likely feel “vindicated” and “relieved to some extent.” 

“At least this part of their life is behind them and they can start to heal and focus on moving forward,” he said.