UCLA Professor Settles in Case of Lab Fire That Killed Research Assistant

A professor at the University of California at Los Angeles has agreed to pay $10,000 and perform 800 hours of community service as part of a settlement that may bring to a close the case of a 2008 lab fire that killed a research assistant, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Patrick G. Harran, an organic-chemistry professor, had been charged with four counts of willfully violating state health and safety standards in connection with the lab fire. In the incident Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji was splashed with a chemical compound that catches fire when it is exposed to air. She suffered severe burns and died 18 days later.

UCLA was also charged in the case, which shone a spotlight on safety standards in university laboratories, but it settled with prosecutors two years ago. The university created a $500,000 scholarship in Ms. Sangji’s name, among other things.

Mr. Harran will pay $10,000 to a regional burn center, and his community service will be performed over five years in UCLA Health Sciences. The felony charges against Mr. Harran will be dropped if he completes the terms of the settlement, which was approved by Judge George Lomeli of the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

“We are extremely disappointed that the Los Angeles district attorney chose to settle this case rather than pursue a trial and seek justice for Sheri,” read part of a statement from Ms. Sangji’s family.

The university also released a statement that pointed to, among other things, its establishment of the UC Center for Laboratory Safety as well as increases in the number of lab inspections on its campus.

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