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What legal rights do I have if an employee of my apartment complex left out a bottle of hazardous cleaning chemicals?

Asked by user in Ohio.

An employee in my apartment complex (which is HUD-approved to help struggling families) left out a bottle with harmful cleaning chemicals in an area where children are likely to be playing. I got a rash when the chemical got on my hands.

I walked past the open bottle with the cleaning chemical a few times over the course of 2 hours. It was a small portion left behind when a maintenance worker was power washing the apartment exteriors. I was worried that a child would find it and that would be dangerous, so I picked it up to remove it. When I did, some of the liquid splashed my hand and immediately started to burn my skin. I rinsed with Dawn dish soap and warm water for 5 minutes before feeling some relief from the burning. I've been keeping a close eye on the area on my hand to make sure no rash started. I have photos of containers laying on the ground and all the directions and warnings. The container says the product is corrosive and users should wear safety glasses and gloves, wash clothes that came into contact with the product, and that you should take a shower before sitting on furniture or touching food. It says skin exposure can cause rashes and that there can be permanent damage to people or animals that come into contact with the substance.

Answered by Enjuris Editors:

I’m very sorry this happened to you! Thank you for being so responsible in trying to make sure that no other person (child or adult) could be harmed from exposure to this chemical.

You definitely want to report to the owner of the property that this chemical had been left in a place where there was a danger of exposure for other people. That’s certainly something that shouldn’t happen again.

As far as your own exposure is concerned, I hope you’re doing better. However, it doesn’t sound as though it required medical treatment (or other treatment beyond your washing with dish soap). That’s not to undermine the validity of your concerns or the extent of your injury, but personal injury law requires that in order to make a claim, the injury has to have cost you money. If you didn’t visit a doctor or hospital to have your injury treated, you likely don’t have the basis for a claim.

Again, though, it’s not acceptable for containers of dangerous chemicals to be left out in the open where there are people around and the management definitely should be made aware of the issue. I hope you’re doing better!

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