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Former Life Time Athletic manager says he was exposed to harmful chemicals while working at International Plaza

General Manager Joe Liotine at the grand opening of Life Time Athletic. The former manager is now suing the mall’s owners and a roofing company, saying he was made ill by chemicals used to seal the building’s roof. [Times (2014)]
Published Aug. 6

TAMPA — The former general manager of the luxury gym at International Plaza says he was exposed to chemical fumes during roof maintenance, according to a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County Circuit Court last month.

Joseph Liotine says he suffered "pulmonary and cardiovascular injuries" because of the chemicals he inhaled as the roof above Life Time Athletic was being sealed with a protective coating in 2015. The lawsuit accuses the mall's owner, the Taubman Company, and the roofing company, Sutter Roofing, of being negligent and responsible for Liotine's health problems.

Doug Sutter, president of Sarasota-based Sutter Roofing, said this is the only complaint he's aware of regarding chemical exposure.

"We installed a roof coating we have used extensively for many years and none of our employees have had any issues working with it daily," Sutter said. "We've done this to hundreds of buildings over the years and never had an issue."

RELATED STORY: Life Time Athletic to offer upscale fitness experience

Tampa's Life Time Athletic opened in April 2014. The resort-style fitness center includes a spa, lounge and cafe. The lawsuit says that in October 2015, Sutter Roofing employees began applying an aluminum coating called Karnak 98 to the roof over a few-week period. Karnak says the coating is made of asphalts, pigment flakes of pure aluminum and other fibers. It is intended to deflect the sun's rays to help keep buildings cool inside.

Liotine says in the lawsuit that not only did the mall not inform the gym of the chemicals being used nearby, but that the workers did not cover the intake vents on the roof that lead to the air conditioning system inside the gym. Liotine also alleges the mall did not provide notice or instruction on what to do once it had realized the intake vents were not covered and gym employees and patrons may have been exposed to fumes.

Handouts about the product available on Karnak's website warn against breathing in the coating and direct users to cover intake vents while the coating is applied and drying. The documents also warn that the fumes inhaled can cause pulmonary edema — or wet lung — and chemical pneumonia, which inflames lung tissue.

Liotine is suing for in excess of $15,000 to cover incurred medical expenses.

Taubman did not immediately responded to request for comment. Neither Liotine nor his attorney could be reached for comment.

His LinkedIn page says he worked for Life Time Athletic for 12 years. He and his wife wrote on Facebook they now run a Retro Fitness in Citrus Park.

Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com. Follow @sara_dinatale.

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