In the post 9/11 world, the United States exercised a cautious view towards anything foreign. Citizens were urged to report suspicious behavior to the federal authorities and there was a large-scale belief that a biological attack would come from abroad. Few, if any, citizens expected biological attacks to come from within the United States’ own borders. Robert Stevens, a photo editor in Florida, was the first victim in a string of Anthrax attacks that were carried out by government workers in the United States.
The United States Army Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USARMIID) turned out to be the source of five distinct Anthrax deaths in 2001. Rife with security gaps, Dr. Bruce Ivins, the alleged perpetrator, was granted access to some of the nation’s most secret and deadly biological weapons. Former workers at USARMIID reported that many employees were allowed access to biological weapons before background checks were completed and others were allowed access to stocks of Anthrax that were not properly controlled and contained by the US Army. Dr. Ivins’ mental status was never properly investigated and despite medical records clearly illustrating his instability he was allowed to proceed with his work at the US Army Laboratory.
While medical records are usually confidential, the U.S. Government had the authority scrutinize the medical records of anyone working at USARMIID as a condition of allowing them to work with the world’s most dangerous pathogens. Dr. Ivins’ mental status and past medical records clearly illustrated his mental instability and had the federal government exercised standard procedure when hiring, this doctor would have been disqualified for employment. He was a paranoid schizophrenic and he was allowed access to deadly weapons that the US Government had been testing as weapons and to new vaccines the government was developing for pathogens. Ultimately, he was able to carry out his measured attacks because of the lax security measures in place at USARMIID in Maryland.
Although partly the responsibility of this rogue scientist, the deaths in the attacks were also mainly due to lack of oversight. The facilities in question did not have CCTV cameras to deter foul play, their security guards lacked proper training, and the open-ended access in the facility all contributed to the deaths of the victims in the attacks. Analyses by experts in the case concluded that there was a serious threat to the general population and that these attacks could have been carried out by nearly anybody that had access to these deadly pathogens since the Steven’s case was brought forward. The security at facilities working with deadly pathogens has been increased to a level one would expect when working with biological weapons.
The Stevens’ family agreed to $2.5 Million in the Anthrax settlement, making it the second multimillion dollar payout by the US government over deadly pathogens. Robert Stevens was a family man who enjoyed traveling around Florida with his family and he enjoyed all aspects of photography. The money paid will help both his daughter and wife sustain their lifestyle, albeit one without their beloved husband and father.
Richard Schuler, a practicing partner in the firm, has many years of experience in tackling even the largest suits. Having assisted this family who suffered a grave loss due to government misconduct, we strive to fight for the people, especially when The United States, with all its power, is the wrongdoer. The experienced Florida Class Action Lawyers at Schuler Halvorson Weisser and Zoeller will fight for your rights.