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Case Moves Forward Despite Federal Judge Rejecting $10 Million Terminix Settlement For Delaware Family Poisoned in St. John

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WILMINGTON, Del. — A plea agreement by Terminix to pay $10 million to resolve allegations it illegally sprayed a toxic pesticide that sickened and nearly killed a Delaware family vacationing in St. John continues to move forward, despite a federal judge rejecting a portion of the agreement.

In March, Terminix admitted to using a pesticide called methyl bromide at 14 locations – including at the Sirenusa condominium resort in St. John where Steve Esmond, then-head of Tatnall’s middle school; his wife, Dr. Theresa Divine; and their two sons – were vacationing in 2015, the U.S. Justice Department said.

But last month, a federal judge rejected the proposed financial settlement saying it was not appropriate.

“The court indicated that it had some concerns with the plea agreement,” wrote Curtis V. Gómez, judge for the District Court of the Virgin Islands. “Indeed, given the facts and circumstances of this case, the court is not satisfied that the proposed plea agreement reflects an appropriate balancing of, among other things, the relevant factors that underpin the assessment and distribution of monetary sanctions.”

Gómez, who did not give an indication of the financial penalties he could impose, gave defendants an opportunity to withdraw their guilty pleas. As of Wednesday, they had not done so. The sentencing is scheduled for August 25.

James R. Wedeking, an Terminix attorney involved in the litigation, referred comment to the pest control company’s spokesman, Jay Robinson, who did not comment because the litigation was still ongoing. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney General’s Office for the District of the Virgin Islands said she could not comment on what Gómez would do.

In a plea agreement, Terminix and its Virgin Islands counterpart agreed to pay $8 million in fines, $1 million for a community service project in the territory and $1 million in restitution to the EPA for response and cleanup costs at the St. John resort.

The company also agreed to “make good faith efforts to resolve past and future medical expenses for the family through separate civil proceedings” while the company is on probation for three years, the Justice Department said in March.


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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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