Sheri Sangji case

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Sheri Sangji case is the first criminal case resulting from an academic laboratory accident.[1][2][3]

The case arose from a fatal accident that occurred in the chemistry laboratory of Patrick Harran at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Research assistant Sheharbano "Sheri" Sangji[4] suffered severe burns from a fire that occurred on December 28, 2008 when a plastic syringe she was using to transfer the pyrophoric reagent tert-butyllithium from one sealed container to another came apart, spilling the chemical, and igniting a fire. Sangji was not wearing a protective lab coat and her clothing caught fire, resulting in severe burns that led to her death 18 days later.[5][6]

An investigation was conducted by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA), which protects the public and workers from safety hazards and enforces the U.S. State of California's occupational and public safety laws.[7]

In 2009, Cal/OSHA fined UCLA $31,875 for violations relating to the fire and in 2012, the Los Angeles District Attorney filed four felony charges against the Regents of the University of California and Patrick Harran for "willful violation of safety regulations".[8] However, prosecutors reached a deferred prosecution agreement after Harran agreed to pay a donation to a local burn center and do community service.[9][10] On September 6, 2018, the court announced that Harran had fulfilled the terms of the agreement, and dismissed the charges against him.[11]

Sangji's death and Harran's legal proceedings have led to a significant increase in the safety standards of research laboratories in academic settings.[12]

Sangji's family was unhappy with the terms of the settlement with Harran. Sangji's sister, Naveen, has called the sanctions against Harran and UCLA "barely a slap on the wrist."[13][14] The Sangji's family remarked, "[t]his settlement, like the previous one with UCLA, is barely a slap on the wrist for the responsible individual."[15] She noted that previous safety violations in his lab were not corrected before her sister's death and that UCLA had ignored the "wake-up calls" of earlier accidents in other labs. She decried the nearly $4.5 million in legal fees — enough to buy 86,000 lab coats. "Had UCLA spent even a tiny fraction of this money and effort on laboratory and chemical safety training and fire resistant gear … Sheri might still be with us today," Naveen said.[13][14]


  1. ^ Los Angeles Times (20 June 2014). "UCLA chemistry professor avoids prison time in fatal lab fire case".
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Patrick Harran and district attorney reach deal in #SheriSangji case".
  4. ^ Allen, Kate. "A young lab worker, a professor and a deadly accident". Toronto Star. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "A 95-page report by Cal/OSHA adds new detail to the circumstances surrounding the death of Sheri Sangji, who was fatally burned in a 2008 lab fire at UCLA". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  7. ^ "Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) - Cal/OSHA". Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  8. ^ Christensen, Kim (January 21, 2012), "Report faults professor, UCLA in death of lab assistant", Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ Christensen, Kim (June 20, 2014), "UCLA chemistry professor avoids prison time in fatal lab fire case", Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ Benderly, Beryl. "The Landmark Patrick Harran Case Ends Inconclusively". Taken for Granted. AAAS. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "The Landmark Patrick Harran Case Ends Inconclusively".
  13. ^ a b Los Angeles Times (16 October 2014). "UCLA's legal fees in fatal lab fire case neared $4.5 million".
  14. ^ a b Michael Torrice. "Patrick Harran And L.A. District Attorney Reach Deferred Prosecution Deal In Sheri Sangji Case".
  15. ^ Kim Christensen. "UCLA professor strikes deal in lab fire case, avoids prison".