November 16, 2018
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Maine man who overdosed at work sues salmon farm for allegedly not rendering aid

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
A worker sets a net before harvesting salmon in a farm pen off the Down East coast, Oct. 12, 2008. A Baileyville man has sued his former employer, a Machiasport salmon farm, alleging the company failed to operate a safe workplace where employees were properly trained to render aid.

A Baileyville man whose co-workers put him in a cold shower after he overdosed last year instead of calling 911 has sued his former employer, a Machiasport salmon farm, according to court documents.

Brian Taylor, 30, alleges that True North Maine Inc., a division of Cooke Aquaculture Inc. of Blacks Harbor, New Brunswick, failed to operate a safe workplace where employees were properly trained to render aid.

The lawsuit, filed a year ago in Washington County Superior Court, has been delayed because True North and Cooke’s insurance companies have refused to pay the costs of defending the company, according to Taylor’s attorney, Barry Mills of Ellsworth.

Taylor, who is now confined to a wheelchair and is unable to care for himself, was working a 12-hour overnight shift sanitizing equipment and facilities on Nov. 25, 2016, when he overdosed, the complaint said. Taylor snorted either heroin or cocaine that he allegedly obtained from a co-worker, according to the lawsuit.

Cooke Aquaculture has a prohibition against alcohol and drug use on the job that was in place when Taylor was injured, according to court documents.

He has been denied workers’ compensation because his injury was caused by a drug overdose, according to court documents.

Taylor collapsed at about 11 p.m. while putting on a pair of rubber boots and he struck his head on the floor, the complaint said. He was found unconscious on the floor by his co-workers.

About 30 minutes later, after a supervisor had not responded to a phone call, Taylor’s co-workers carried him to a chair that was placed in a shower stall under cold water, according to the complaint. Taylor allegedly was left there for 4½ hours until a manager arrived after being informed of a “problem” and called 911.

When the ambulance crew arrived, Taylor was not responsive and his breathing was irregular, the complaint said. It allegedly took five doses of Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote, to revive him. He was taken to Down East Community Hospital in Machias before being transported to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

Taylor was hospitalized until Jan. 12, 2017, and then spent nearly six months at rehabilitative facilities, the lawsuit alleged. As of April, MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program, had paid more than $603,000 toward Taylor’s care and treatment, according to Mills.

“[Treatment] costs will be ongoing for the rest of Brian’s life,” his attorney said. “We intend that those costs be paid by True North Maine and Cooke Aquaculture or their insurers and not by the people of the State of Maine [who fund a portion of MaineCare].”

Joel Richardson, vice president of public relations for Cooke Aquaculture declined Monday to comment on the litigation.

“Maine law imposes a duty on employers to use due care to furnish a workplace that is reasonably safe for their workers. Brian did not work within a reasonably safe workplace,” Mills wrote in an email. “Experts have told us that if Brian’s co-workers had promptly called 911, Brian could have been treated with Narcan with little, probably no, significant injury.”

Taylor is not the first True North employee to sue over a work-related injury.

In June, Jesse Redman, 24, of Machias settled for an undisclosed amount a lawsuit over his loss of two fingers nearly two years ago while working at the ocean-based salmon farm. Redman had smoked marijuana on his way to work about a month before Maine voters legalized its recreational use, court documents said.

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