First Case of Professor Prosecuted for Accidental Death of Research Student
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Sheri Sangji (photo-courtesy of Naveen Sangji)
The prosecution of a Southern California college professor could have far-reaching effects on other universities and laboratory faculty.
Professor Patrick Harran and the University of California Regents were charged last year with three counts of willfully violating occupational health and safety standards following the 2008 death of Sheri Sangji, a UCLA research assistant.
Half of the felony charges were dropped recently when the regents agreed to follow comprehensive safety measures and endow a $500,000 scholarship in Sangji’s name.
In late December 2008, Harran left Sangji unsupervised in the university’s Molecular Sciences lab, where she was transferring a highly flammable liquid (t-butyl lithium) from one sealed container to another. The plastic syringe she was using came apart in her hands. The chemical compound ignited Sangji’s clothing, which was not covered with a lab coat. She suffered fatal burns and died 18 days later.
Faculty members and universities leaders have watched the case closely, for fear a conviction of Harran might expose others to criminal charges stemming from poor lab safety practices resulting in lab accidents.
Harran still faces remaining charges in the case. His arraignment has been postponed to September 5.
To Learn More:
UC Regents Strike Plea Deal in UCLA Chemistry Lab Death (by Kim Christensen, Los Angeles Times)
Landmark Worker Death Case Continues Against UCLA Chemistry Professor (by Jim Morris, iWatch News)
California v. Patrick Harran (California Superior Court, Los Angeles)
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