A man who died in an explosion while filling a cylinder behind a meat market near USC would be alive Tuesday if the manufacturer of the device had placed an inexpensive warning label on it, an attorney told a jury Tuesday.
Attorney Daniel Balaban told the panel hearing trial of a Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit brought by relatives of 31-year-old Roberto J. Lasarte that management at Catalina Cylinders knew of the dangers of mixing hydrocarbons from carbon dioxide with nitrous oxide, yet the warning labels on the cylinders were not specific enough to warn consumers.
“This is a case about basic safety,” Balaban said. “All you need is a little spark and you get a massive explosion.”
An attorney for Catalina Cylinders will give an opening statement Wednesday.
The explosion happened about 6:30 p.m. June 13, 2012, in a small building housing Lasarte’s employer, NOSWerks, behind Bembis Meat Market near Grand Avenue and Adams Boulevard. Lasarte was transferring nitrous oxide from a large cylinder tank to an aluminum tank that exploded, Balaban said.
The official cause of Lasarte’s death was multiple traumatic injuries, Ed Winter, the coroner’s assistant chief of investigations, said at the time.
Nitrous oxide is two parts nitrogen and one part oxygen and is often referred to as “nos.” The state of California includes it on its list of hazardous substances.
Nitrous oxide is used in the gas used to sedate dental patients and in the racing industry to make cars go faster.
Among the plaintiffs are Lasarte’s father, Roberto M. Lasarte, and his brother, Juan Lasarte, who was working with his sibling and was four to five feet away when the cylinder exploded.
Both men were both in court Tuesday.
“He will be permanently disfigured for life,” Balaban said of Juan Lasarte.
The attorney displayed on a television screen photos of Roberto Lasarte and his family members, saying that had Catalina Cylinders not been negligent, “we wouldn’t be here today and neither would they.”