UC Regents Reach Settlement in Deadly UCLA Lab Fire
WESTWOOD, Calif. (KTLA) -- The University of California Regents have reached a settlement in the case of a 2008 laboratory fire that killed 23-year-old research assistant Sheharbano "Sheri" Sangji.

The UC Regents have agreed to "comprehensive corrective safety measures," according to a news release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

The Regents also agreed to establish a $500,000 scholarship in the Sangji's name at UC Berkeley Law Boalt Hall for the study of environmental law.

The settlement, approved by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, ends a criminal case against the UC Regents in connection with the fatal fire on Dec. 29, 2008.

Sangji was not wearing a protective lab coat while transferring highly flammable chemicals, which spilled from a syringe and ignited.

She died from her injuries 18 days after the fire, on Jan. 16, 2009.

The DA's Office filed a criminal case in December of last year, charging the Regents and Patrick Harran, a chemistry professor and Sangji's supervisor in the organic chemistry laboratory.

The defendants were charged with three felony counts of willfully violating occupational health and safety standards.

The criminal case continues against Harran, 43, who faces 4-1/2 years in prison if convicted.

According to a report on a Cal/OSHA criminal investigation, Sangji was neither trained nor well-experienced in the safe handling of the air-sensitive chemicals that caused her clothes to catch fire.

"Dr. Harran simply disregarded the open and obvious dangers presented in this case and permitted Sangji to work in a manner that knowingly caused her to be exposed to a serious and foreseeable risk of serious injury or death," the Cal/OSHA report said.

If Sanji had been properly trained and had been wearing appropriate clothing, her death "would have been prevented," the report said.

Campus officials said the fire was a tragic accident and called the charges "appalling" and "outrageous."

L.A. County prosecutors said Sangji's death raised questions about UCLA's laboratory safety practices.

Two months before the fatal fire, UCLA lab safety inspectors found more than a dozen problems in the lab, the Los Angeles Times reports, citing internal inspection reports.

The problems included employees not wearing lab coats and improper storage of flammable liquids and volatile chemicals.

In May 2009, Cal/OSHA fined UCLA $31,875 after finding that Sangji had not been trained properly and was not wearing protective clothing.

After Sangji's death, UCLA implemented a variety of safety changes, including more flame-resistant lab coats, tougher lab inspections and enhanced training for lab workers.

Sangji graduated from Pomona College in Claremont in 2008.

She planned to become a lawyer, according to her family, and took a job in Harran's lab while applying to law schools.

Sangji's family, led by her sister Naveen Sangji, has been extremely critical of UCLA and the Cal/OSHA investigations.

They hope to get a chance to speak out in court.