Sheri Sangji case

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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 29, 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][7]

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.[8]

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".[9] However, prosecutors reached a deferred prosecution agreement after Harran agreed to pay a donation to a local burn center and do community service.[1][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.[10]

Sangji's family was unhappy with the terms of the settlement with Harran. Sangji's sister, Naveen, remarked "[t]his settlement, like the previous one with UCLA, is barely a slap on the wrist for the responsible individual."[12][13] 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 the public university spent defending itself and Harran.[13][14]


  1. ^ a b Christensen, Kim (June 20, 2014), "UCLA chemistry professor avoids prison time in fatal lab fire case", Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ "Enhancing Laboratory Safety" (PDF). April 11, 2013. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  3. ^ "Patrick Harran and district attorney reach deal in #SheriSangji case". Archived from the original on March 3, 2021.
  4. ^ Allen, Kate. "A young lab worker, a professor and a deadly accident". Toronto Star. Retrieved May 28, 2015.
  5. ^ "Report finds fault in death of lab assistant". Los Angeles Times (in Kinyarwanda). Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  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 January 27, 2015.
  7. ^ Christensen, Kim (March 1, 2009). "Deadly UCLA lab fire leaves haunting questions". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 21, 2021.
  8. ^ "Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) - Cal/OSHA". Retrieved January 27, 2015.
  9. ^ Christensen, Kim (January 21, 2012), "Report faults professor, UCLA in death of lab assistant", Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ a b Benderly, Beryl. "The Landmark Patrick Harran Case Ends Inconclusively". Taken for Granted. AAAS. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  11. ^ "Charges dropped against UCLA chemistry professor Patrick Harran for death of Sheri Sangji after lab fire". Chemical & Engineering News.
  12. ^ Kim Christensen (June 21, 2014). "UCLA professor strikes deal in lab fire case, avoids prison". Los Angeles Times.
  13. ^ a b Los Angeles Times (October 16, 2014). "UCLA's legal fees in fatal lab fire case neared $4.5 million". Los Angeles Times.
  14. ^ Michael Torrice. "Patrick Harran And L.A. District Attorney Reach Deferred Prosecution Deal In Sheri Sangji Case".