Terminix Offers to Pay $87M to Delaware Family Sickened at Virgin Islands Resort

Image: Composite photo of Stephen Esmond and Dr. Theresa Devine
Stephen Esmond and Dr. Theresa Devine were hospitalized after suffering exposure to fumigation while on vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands.TODAY

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By Erik Ortiz

Terminix has offered to pay $87 million to the Delaware family seriously sickened by a pesticide at a U.S. Virgin Islands resort last year, the company said in an earnings report Thursday.

About $3 million related to the family's claims have already been paid, and a "tentative settlement agreement" has also been reached relating to any of the civil claims, according to ServiceMaster Global Holdings, the Memphis-based company that owns Terminix.

In addition, the company in March said it would pay $10 million in fines and restitution for using the banned chemical methyl bromide — a highly noxious and odorless gas — at units at the St. John resort where the family was vacationing in March 2015.

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The Environmental Protection Agency prohibited the chemical, which can lead to nervous system and respiratory damage, for residential use in 1984. American growers, however, have been able to use it in certain cases on their fields.

Stephen Esmond, wife Theresa, and their teenage sons fell ill not long after checking into their rooms, which was above a fumigated unit. They were brought to a Philadelphia hospital to recover from severe respiratory trauma, according to NBC Philadelphia.

The EPA later found the toxic pesticide was used several times in the past at the Sirenusa resort. The resort's owner, Sea Glass Vacations, has said it was unaware that Terminix was using the banned chemical and said it ended its contract with the company.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice opened a criminal investigation into the case.

ServiceMaster said its plea agreement is subject to court approval next month, and "if approved will resolve the federal criminal consequences associated with the DOJ investigation."

A Terminix spokesman declined to comment about the case Thursday, and referred any questions about it to the company's second-quarter earnings report.

Attorneys for the Esmond family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The DOJ said the family suffered "debilitating injuries." The two children were placed into medically induced comas and were having trouble moving, according to reports last year. Their latest conditions were not immediately known.

Stephanie Siegel contributed.