Three men who tried to help co-workers during the January 2021 Foundation Food Group nitrogen leak have filed a lawsuit against the gas company alleging mental and physical pain from the experience.
Attorney Matt Cook filed the lawsuit July 8 on behalf of Jason Adams, Cristian Faur and Ryan Cook in Gwinnett County State Court.
The Jan. 28, 2021, nitrogen leak at Foundation Food Group killed six people and sent roughly a dozen to the hospital. Foundation Food Group was acquired by Gold Creek Foods in October 2021.
Lawyers in the cases have said the leak occurred after Messer Gas LLC installed a liquid nitrogen immersion spiral freezer at the Memorial Park Drive plant in December 2020.
The lawyers have pointed to the “bubbler tube,” a device intended to detect when the liquid nitrogen might overflow, as the reason for the spill. Court documents show one of the bubbler tube’s support brackets is missing, which is what the attorneys believe caused it to get damaged and displaced.
Cook said the three in this newest lawsuit attempted to help rescue people from the leak, describing them as “real heroes in the moment.”
Cook said Adams collapsed after the leak and was on a respirator for several days. Adams has not returned to work and has been diagnosed with a brain injury from oxygen deprivation, Cook said.
Due to the trauma from the leak, Faur moved on to another job, Cook said.
“Ryan Cook, who had been in the industry for decades, has totally left the industry all together and started another job just because of the trauma and horror of it all,” attorney Matt Cook said.
The lawsuit claims damages from medical expenses, lost wages and mental/physical pain and suffering.
Cook did not have a specific number regarding damages or expenses incurred.
Messer sent a statement to The Times:
“Messer continues to cooperate fully with the investigating authorities, and we remain committed to understanding what happened, learning from the investigation findings, and doing our part to help prevent an incident like this from happening again.”
Eight lawsuits were previously filed, including six wrongful death cases and some personal injuries suffered by survivors. According to a motion filed in Gwinnett County, at least five of the lawsuits have been settled, but attorneys have declined to discuss specifics.
Dispute over proposed settlement
There is a dispute, however, on one case related to Ximena Sophia Vera, a now 5-year-old who lost both of her parents, Nelly Perez-Rafael, 28, of Gainesville, and Edgar Vera-Garcia, 28, of Gainesville.
Ximena’s aunt has taken care of her since the death of the girl’s parents.
The attorneys for Messer filed a motion in June to enforce and approve a settlement in Ximena’s case.
A guardian ad litem and a conservator were appointed, who said “they could not in good faith consent to the terms of the settlement memorandum because the terms proposed were not fair and just and accordingly were not in Ximena’s best interests,” according to a motion filed Aug. 1 by Cook.
Messer’s attorneys contend that the conservator is attempting to renege on the settlement.
“She’s a very sympathetic person who is trying to litigate against the world’s largest privately owned gas business in the world,” Cook said of Ximena.
Cook did not discuss the case at depth because it is currently being litigated.
According to the Gwinnett County docket portal, a Sept. 23 hearing has been scheduled for pending motions in Ximena’s case.