Tennessee

How many complaints against Terminix have been filed in Tennessee? How does the State of Tennessee rate as a public agency in providing information to the public and/or in their own knowledge of pest control companies that spray toxic chemicals in homes?

State of Tennessee Responsiveness

In response to questions asked in an e-mail request on February 28, 1999, to the State of Tennessee, Department of Agriculture, the following answers were provided on March 10:

  1. What is the name and address of Tennessee’s pest inspection/pest control licensing and regulating agency?
  2. Tennessee Department of Agriculture
    Regulatory Services
    Ag/Inputs and Pesticides
    P.O. Box 40627
    Nashville, TN  37204
    (615) 837-5103

  3. How many years does Tennessee’s licensing and regulating agency maintain records of complaints against pest control/pest inspection companies?
  4. TDA was maintaining records of complaints for 5 years. As of 02/24/99, TDA has started maintaining its complaint (investigation) records for 10 years.

  5. How many Terminix branches are currently operating in Tennessee? My records (taken from the Yellow Pages on the Internet) indicate there are 26 Terminix, aka Terminix International, aka Terminix International Co. branches operating in Tennessee.
  6. According to our records, there are 14 Terminix branches.  There may be other Terminix franchises in the state but under other names.  If you want other information, you will need to be more specific about company names.

  7. In Tennessee, does each Terminix branch operate under a separate license or do all the Terminix branches operate under one license?
  8. Terminix law mandates that each branch office has to have its own charter and licensee.

  9. How many complaints, if any, have been filed in Tennessee against Terminix International (and its aka’s); including the nature of the complaints, name and location of Terminix branch involved; and disposition of complaints (dismissed, settled, fine, suspended or revoked license, probation, etc.)?
  10. Our complaints are considered For Cause Inspections. These could be homeowner complaints, EPA requests, requests from other agencies, etc. The following list is of Terminix branches, For Cause Inspections, and any actions taken.

FOLLOW-UPS

ACTIONS TAKEN

REASON

1

Stop Work

Failure to renew

21

Warning Letters
Corrective Action

Improper treatment

19

Other Enforcement Actions

Incomplete records

25

Warning Letter
Other Enforcement Actions

Improper treatment
State Specific Violations
$4,500 penalty
$70 penalty

1

Corrective Action
120 Day Grace Letter

Loss of Licensee

4

None

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2

None

---

16

None

---

10

None

---

2

None

---

17

Warning Letter
Corrective Action

Incomplete records

17

Other Enforcement

Incomplete records
$175.00 penalty

9

Warning Letter

$525.00 penalty

Terminix/Terminex Lawsuits Filed in Tennessee

Janice W. Ward, Merry Elizabeth Ward, and Jennifer Ward vs. Terminix.  According to an article written by Kirk Loggins, Staff Writer, in the May 30, 1991, issue of the Tennessean, a state appeals court cut $2 million off a $6 million damage award.  A trial judge in Davidson County had awarded the $6 million damages to Janice Ward, an English teacher at Hillsboro High School, and to her two daughters after a misapplication of chemicals by Terminix caused them mental and physical injuries. The Court of Appeals affirmed a jury’s finding in February 1990 that Terminix should be held liable.

Joe H. Brown, a Terminix employee, sprayed chemicals in the crawl space of Janice Ward’s home on September 10, 1986.  When she got home from work that day, there was a strong odor in the home; and she began to vomit.  Both she and her younger daughter, Merry Beth, experienced dizziness, nausea, eye irritation, and tightness in the throat.  They spent that night with friends.  After Janice Ward called Terminix and complained, the company sent two employees to spray a deodorant in the crawl space.

Nothing changed, so the Wards spend the next two months with friends or in motels. When they could no longer afford to stay away, they moved back into the house.  Janice Ward suffered from night sweats, dizziness, memory lapses, and a constant thirst; her speech became rambling and incoherent; and her work performance deteriorated to the point she was forced to give up teaching.

The Wards sued.  Terminix identified the solution used as copper napthenate; however, during the December 1989 trial, it was revealed the Terminix technician had erroneously used the highly toxic chemical Aldrin.  The trial jury awarded Ward and her daughters, Jennifer and Merry Beth Ward, $10 million in damages; but two weeks later, Circuit Judge Hamilton Gayden cut the damages to $6 million.  He left intact the jury’s award of $1 million in compensatory damages and $4 million in punitive damages to Ward, but he reduced the daughters’ damage awards from $2.5 million each to $500,000 each ($100,000 in compensatory damages and $400,000 in punitive damages).

On the grounds that the court should have granted a mistrial after the Aldrin evidence was introduced, Terminix appealed the case.  The attorneys for Terminix argued there was no basis for the assessment of punitive damages, that the jury’s verdict was “so outrageous” that the company should be granted a new trial, and that there was no “causative link” between the chemicals used and the Wards’ illnesses.

In an opinion written by Judge Ben Cantrell, the three-judge appeals court panel said Terminix :may have acted recklessly and with disregard for the social obligations, but the proof does not establish they acted with specific intent to inflict harm” and that a $2 million punitive damage award “is sufficient to punish Terminix for its actions.”  The Court of Appeals ruled, “The record contains evidence from which the jury could have concluded the following:

    “Terminix does not have facilities to dispose of the water used to rinse its chemical tanks; as a result, the chemical tanks are seldom rinsed and the residue from prior jobs gets applied to the next job; consequently, Terminix uses its customers’ property as a disposal site for any unused chemicals, some of which may be potentially harmful...

    “In addition, there is evidence from which the jury could have concluded that Terminix knew or should have known that a substantial amount of Aldrin had been used in Ward’s home.

    “Despite this knowledge and despite the continuing complaints from the Wards, Terminix essentially turned its back on the problem. Its indifference, coupled with assurances to the Wards that nothing was wrong, may have led to a prolonged exposure to a dangerous condition.”

Dargi vs. Terminix. Kirk Loggins, staff writer, reported in the March 27, 1999, issue of The Tennessean that Steven Dargi, a plaintiff in a case against Terminix, was fined $200 for cursing during a videotaped deposition that Terminix’s attorneys played during the trial of Dargi’s suit against Terminix.

The Circuit Judge, Walter Kurtz, ruled that Dargi and his wife were entitled to about $23,000 in damages from Terminix, a fraction of what the Dargis said they lost as a result of a faulty termite clearance letter Terminix had issued on the house they bought in 1996. Kurtz also held Steve Dargi in contempt of court for repeatedly cursing during is out-of-court deposition where Terminix’s attorneys questioned him for several hours about his career and finances.

Dargi apologized during the deposition and again on the witness stand. He explained he was taking medication for a heart condition and had worked all night before the deposition.  “We have lost everything.  My health is ruined.  I can’t work, and they (Terminix’s lawyers) pushed the whole thing too far,” Dargi testified. Outside the courtroom, he said that Terminix’s lawyers “purposely tried to stir me up” during the deposition and then played the videotape during the trial to “inflame the jury and inflame the judge.”

The Dargis had sold their home in Minnesota; and in June 1996, they moved to Nashville.  Steven Dargi, a sound designer who has designed sound effects for major hotels in Las Vegas and has worked for recording artists, said he planned to have a sound mixing room in the house; but termite damage discovered in September 1996 led to costly repairs, a series of bank loans, and eventual sale of the house at foreclosure.

Dargi said he plans to appeal both the outcome of the trial, wherein the jury found the Dargis suffered $65,300 in damage but that Terminix was only 35% to blame, and Kurtz’ finding that he was in contempt.

“This is the end,” said Dargi. “We’re leaving Tennessee and we’re not coming back.  [The judgment] shows us that the law doesn’t protect anyone.  The house is gone; it was foreclosed on.  Terminix never even found the damage. What is the value of a termite letter?”  “The answer is, ‘It has no value. It’s useless.’ It has taken us two and a half years to answer that question.”

Amen to that, Mr. Dargi!

U.S. EPA 1996 FY 1996 Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Accomplishments Report.

CERCLA.
Arlington Blending and Packaging site and Gallaway Pits site (Shelby County, Tennessee): On August 28, 1996, a CERCLA 107 consent decree was entered for the sites pursuant to which the settling defendant, Velsicol Chemical Company (Velsicol), will reimburse EPA $3,500,000 in past costs. In addition, Velsicol agreed to reimburse EPA for all of its future oversight costs of the remedial design/remedial action that Velsicol is performing pursuant to a unilateral administrative order.  The Arlington site was a former pesticide formulation and packaging facility. The Gallaway site is a gravel mine in which wastes from the former Arlington facility were dumped. EPA's past costs were a result of fund-lead removal and investigatory activities.

The consent decree resolves over 10 years of litigation between the United States and various defendants. The complaint for past costs on the above sites was filed in 1986 against Velsicol, Terminix International, Inc. (Terminix), Chemwood Corporation (Chemwood), William Bell, and Robert Meeks. Pursuant to Court ordered mediation between the defendants, all of the defendants, including the third party defendants, have settled with Velsicol with the exception of Terminix.

The ServiceMaster Company, The Terminix International Company L.P., Trugreen Limited Partnership, American Home Shield Corporation, and Amerispec, Inc. v. Carla Virga.  This case against me was filed October 4, 1999, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Civil Action No. 99 2866 TU V, Complaint for Trademark Infringement, Dilution, False Designation and Representation of Origin, False Advertising, Deceptive Trade Practices, and Unfair Competition.  In March 2000, the lawsuit was dropped by the defendants.

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