A California plastic manufacturer agreed to a $1.6 million settlement to end a lawsuit related to a fatal explosion at a Rancho Santa Margarita plant, Orange County District Attorney’s Office said.
In a settlement approved by an Orange County Superior Court judge late last month that heads off a civil trial, the owners of Solus Industrial Innovations agreed to pay $1.5. million in penalties and $100,000 in restitution related to the incident that left two employees dead.
Jose Jimenez, 51, of Garden Grove and Isidro Echeverria, 34, of Oceanside were killed March 19, 2009 when a water heater exploded at the plastic manufacturing plant.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and health found the accident was caused by a lack of safety features.
The civil lawsuit, filed by the District Attorney’s Office in 2012, accused Solus of maintaining an unsafe work environment. The lawsuit contended after the water heater was installed, supervisors at the plant opted not to use an industrial-grade boiler, which would have required a gas line.
Instead, the lawsuit said, the supervisors bought a $500 residential water heater from Lowe’s and installed it without a permit. The heater was used to melt plastic.
Solus officials, as well as attorneys representing the company, could not be reached for comment.
Solus initially fought the lawsuit, saying the district attorney’s civil action was preempted by federal labor law. The Fourth District Court of Appeal agreed, but the ruling was reversed last year by the California Supreme Court, which allowed the DA’s lawsuit to move forward.
In addition, Carl Richardson, the plant manager, and Roy Faulkinbury, the maintenance supervisor, pleaded no contest in 2014 to violating state safety standards and agreed to pay $450,000 to the victims’ families.