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Lawsuit against city alleges long-time job at Pershing Center led to 60-year-old's death
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Lawsuit against city alleges long-time job at Pershing Center led to 60-year-old's death

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Donna M. Grant

The sister of a 60-year-old Lincoln woman who died in February is suing the city, alleging her longtime work at Pershing Center led to mesothelioma that caused her death.

Dixie Johnson filed the lawsuit earlier this week on behalf of Donna Grant's estate. 

In it, attorney Jon Rehm said Grant was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an asbestos-related terminal disease, on March 26, 2019.

She died Feb. 3 at the age of 60.

Rehm said Grant started working at Pershing Center in 1974 and stayed on part-time through 2014, when the building no longer was in use.

During that time, she worked in concessions and catering, work that often took her into the backstage area and basement. He said she was there when maintenance crews removed or replaced pipe covering, when patrons touched the popcorn ceiling and vibrations during concerts all caused pieces to fall as dust. 

Rehm said, during Grant's employment, she inhaled and was otherwise exposed to asbestos fibers that she and others were working with and around. 

He said her exposure was foreseeable and could or should have been anticipated by the city, which should have known it posed an unreasonable risk of harm to Grant and others working there.

Lincoln mayor selects Omaha developer's proposal for Pershing block

Rehm alleges the city was negligent for failing to conduct tests on the materials to determine the hazards to which workers were being exposed and for failing to take reasonable precautions in the hiring and supervision of subcontractors with regard to the use of products or materials containing asbestos.

The estate is seeking payment of Grant's hospital and medical bills and burial and funeral costs, as well as for her pain and anguish before she died and her family's suffering.

The city hasn't yet filed a response to the lawsuit, and City Attorney Yohance Christie on Thursday declined to comment. 

In June, Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird announced the selection of a proposal by an Omaha developer to redevelop the block including the vacant Pershing Center.

The $54 million proposal from White Lotus Development would bring 100 affordable housing units to the site along with a new library, wellness center, child care center, retail and a community green space with public art to the block bounded by Centennial Mall South and 16th, M and N streets.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or

On Twitter @LJSpilger


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Public safety reporter

Lori Pilger is a Norfolk native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been a public safety reporter for the Journal Star since 2005.

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