Jury Awards $900,000 To Contractor's Family

By  | 

A jury has awarded $900,000 to the family of a Reno contractor who was blinded and burned by a chemical product used to break open large rocks.

The March 24 judgment against Japan-based Onoda Cement Co. followed a four-day trial in U.S. District Court in Reno.

Richard Mandeville was blinded in one eye and burned on his face and chest when the "Super BriStar 2000" product he was using shot into his face at a job site in Incline Village in 1995, court documents said.

The family's lawyer, Kevin Mirch, said the accident left Mandeville financially drained and depressed. He committed suicide four years later at age 43.

Mirch said Mandeville used BriStar instead of dynamite to break up a boulder the size of a large conference table to avoid damaging nearby homes.

He drilled five holes into the rock and filled them with the chemical mixture, which was supposed to expand overnight with enough force to crack the rock.

But one of holes exploded, Mirch said.

"It had 8,000 tons per cubic meter of force," he told the Reno Gazette-Journal on Tuesday. "It knocked him 8 feet away."

In the suit, Mirch argued the company failed to provide proper safety guidelines on the product's packaging.

"Somebody else out there is going to go blind, or some child is going to eat it and die because they don't have proper warnings on this product," he said.

But Onoda lawyer Eugene Wait said he argued at trial that the product was safe and that Mandeville didn't follow instructions on the warning label.

"There wasn't anything wrong with the product. There was something wrong with the user," Wait said.

The product's packaging includes a warning label and graphics urging users to wear special goggles, something Wait said Mandeville failed to do.

"He chose to use his regular old sunglasses that don't protect from chemicals," he said.

Mirch, however, said Mandeville was wearing goggles that included side guards.