NEW ORLEANS – An employee of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts is suing a Bywater residence company and a Texas waterproofing company for negligence, claiming they aggravated a pre-existing condition and caused her respiratory health to rapidly deteriorate.

Claudette Sislo filed suit against National Rice Mill LLC and Frontier Waterproofing in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court on July 25.

The complaint states that National Rice Mill hired Frontier Waterproofing to perform weatherproofing work on the property located at 522 Montegut, which included sandblasting the building's exterior over a period of months.

The plaintiff alleges that her place of employment, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, is a neighbor of the Rice Mill Lofts building. The parking lot that Sislo used bordered the Rice Mill Lofts property, the suit says.

Frontier allegedly sandblasted the Rice Mill Lofts from late July until October 2013. Sislo asserts that particulate matter from the building would regularly drift from the worksite onto vehicles, people and the ground in adjacent areas, coating them with a fine dust. Because the defendants allegedly did not use any sheeting or protection for the work areas, Sislo claims that she was exposed to the particulate matter repeatedly. The plaintiff claims that dust came into contact with her clothes and skin, and that she breathed the matter floating in the air.

Silso avers that she suffered an acute asthma attack on July 29, 2013. The suit claims that Sislo was taken by ambulance to Ochsner Hospital, where she was admitted with an acute exacerbation of a pre-existing lung condition, resulting in a significant decrease in her oxygen levels.

The plaintiff’s doctor allegedly advised that she should work from home as much as possible until Frontier completed the Rice Mill Lofts project. Sislo asserts that she complied. Furthermore, the plaintiff claims that she wore a protective mask, worked very limited hours, and kept her doors and windows closed when she had to be at work. Sislo states that the defendants continued to blow particulate matter into the air without providing protection from their work for the surrounding population.

On Aug. 14, 2013, Sislo suffered an acute asthma attack at work, and found it difficult to breath even while taking breathing treatments from a machine provided by her doctors, says the suit. The plaintiff claims to have contacted one of her doctors, Dr. Kantrow, and reported the development the following day. Kantrow allegedly saw her on Aug. 16, 2013, and prescribed breathing treatments four times per day until further notice. He informed her that she should not work until he medically cleared her to return.

Sislo avers that she requested to leave from her employment under the Family Medical Leave Act on Aug. 30, 2013. The petition states that she has not yet been approved to return to work.

Due to severe scarring and other damage to her lungs, Sislo now uses an oxygen tank at all times and is currently awaiting a lung transplant, says the suit. The plaintiff says that the rapid, severe decline in her health is due to exposure to the sandblasting and/or other particulate matter in the air as caused by the Rice Mill Lofts’ weatherproofing project being carried out by Frontier Weatherproofing.

The defendants are accused of negligence, including unnecessarily endangering the public with sandblasting activities, failing to properly guard against the risks and effects that weatherproofing and sandblasting-related activities would have on adjacent properties, failing to consider appropriate safeguards, failing to take appropriate action under the circumstances to reduce or eliminate the particulate matter being spread over the surrounding area and intentionally or willfully refusing to follow the applicable and necessary safety rules and or standards for its activities.

The plaintiff seeks an unknown amount in damages for past, present, and future medical and related expenses, loss of earnings, earning capacity, and benefits, loss of life's pleasures and enjoyment and pain and suffering, both physical and mental.

Claudette Sislo is represented by Richard M. Morgain of Lestelle & Lestelle APLC.

The case has been assigned to District F Judge Christopher J. Bruno.

Case no. 2014-07327.

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