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News / Northwest

2nd lawsuit claims tenants exposed to asbestos as part of ‘cover-up’

By Aimee Green, The Oregonian
Published: September 22, 2018, 5:16pm

PORTLAND — A former tenant of a Southwest Portland apartment complex filed a class-action lawsuit Friday against her former landlord — claiming that management negligently exposed her and others to asbestos as they renovated decades-old units.

Shana Maurer, 23, says she now worries that she might one day develop asbestos-related cancer from inhaling microscopic fibers while living at the Commons at Sylvan Highlands apartments. Her lawsuit claims that management at the complex learned in June during a renovation project that some of its units had tested “hot” for asbestos.

“Rather than do the right thing upon discovering that its apartments contained potentially harmful asbestos, Sylvan Highlands orchestrated a massive coverup to keep the asbestos a secret from its tenants and the government,” reads Maurer’s lawsuit, which doesn’t seek a specific dollar amount.

A man who answered the phone at the apartment complex declined comment about the lawsuit, and referred comment to Tandem Property Management, which manages the complex. Messages to Tandem Property Management on Friday afternoon weren’t returned.

Maurer’s suit comes four days after two former employees filed a $40 million lawsuit against Tandem Property Management — claiming they were fired in retaliation after learning that management had allegedly continued to remodel units without taking proper steps to contain the asbestos. That lawsuit alleges that managers directed workers to carry asbestos-laden drywall through the halls without following government regulations to contain the dangerous fibers.

Messages left at Tandem Property Management on Monday about that first lawsuit also haven’t been returned.

Maurer’s lawsuit alleges that management hadn’t notified renters of the alleged exposure.

Maurer also worked for Sylvan Highlands’ property management company, and learned about the alleged asbestos from a former co-worker in August, according to her lawsuit. Maurer said she quit and moved out.

“Now, all at once, I have to find a whole new job and I have to pick up and build a new life … because morally I can’t stay with this company,” Maurer told The Oregonian/OregonLive.

It’s unclear how many people live at the large complex, at 1380 S.W. 66th Avenue, about four miles west of downtown Portland and just north of Oregon 26. Sylvan Highlands is comprised of apartments ranging from studios to two-bedroom homes with monthly rents ranging from $1,225 to $1,700 per unit, according to the company website.

Garrett Lage, another former tenant who has signed onto Friday’s lawsuit, said during three years of living at Sylvan Highlands, he saw units in his building renovated and old materials thrown in open-air Dumpsters. He said he worries he might have inhaled asbestos in the interior hallways of his building.

“It’s just going to sit there,” Lage said. “It’s not going anywhere.”

Lage said he also fears he might have been exposed in the process of packing up and moving out last month when his lease was up. He removed picture frames and nails from the drywall of his unit, he said.

Portland attorney Michael Fuller is representing Lage and Maurer as part of a class of tenants or former tenants. The lawsuit was filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court.