PASCO -- Miguel Acosta and his workers were taking a break from picking apples to eat lunch near Mattawa in 2008 when they heard a plane overhead and watched as the pilot made a few passes over the alfalfa field next to them.
"He circled, he passed a little smoke to test the wind," Acosta recalled. "Then this guy just suddenly (flew) straight over us. We didn't have a second to get out. He didn't give us time to do anything -- he just sprayed us."
Acosta and a group of 60 farmworkers will divide $230,000 after a Franklin County judge Friday approved a settlement for a class-action lawsuit against B&R Aerial Crop Care of Connell and Anderson Farms.
The farmworkers were represented by Columbia Legal Services and a Seattle attorney.
Acosta, 35, who was a foreman on the job, said he was sprayed with the chemical on his face and arms as he waved his hands in the air to get the pilot to stop.
The pilot was spraying the herbicide clethodim, which can cause "substantial eye irritation," according to court documents. The label also warns to avoid contact with skin and says it carries "hazards to humans and domestic animals."
The pilot, Bernard K. Eskildsen, said in a deposition that he saw Acosta but continued spraying.
He told Department of Agriculture investigators that he felt he had left a wide enough buffer between where he was spraying and the workers.
A few minutes later, Acosta, of Royal City, said he and most of his workers began feeling sick with nausea and chest pains, and all went to area clinics or hospitals. The symptoms lasted more than a month for some.
"We are pleased with the settlement, but this exposure should never have happened in the first place," Acosta said. "My workers got sick and had to go to the hospital -- farmworkers work hard, and they deserve more respect."
B&R Aerial Crop Care did not return a call seeking comment Friday.
The state Department of Agriculture investigated the incident after it was reported and concluded it did not have enough evidence to take action against the company, according to state spokesman Joel Kangiser.