HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that a group of Connecticut prison inmates can move forward with a lawsuit that accuses the state of failing to protect them from exposure to dangerous radon gas.

The lawsuit is one of two filed by current and former prisoners and guards at the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown. It accuses officials of creating unconstitutional and inhumane conditions of confinement inside the maximum-security prison by exposing them to extremely high levels of the naturally occurring radioactive gas.

A separate lawsuit by former guards and staff members, several of whom suffer from respiratory ailments, is moving forward in state court. It asserts the staff should have been informed of the radon problem.

The lawsuits allege the state knew about the potential for problems with radon at Garner when it was opened in 1992 but did not begin testing until 2013, when it was requested by a teacher at the prison’s school. The state has required radon testing at all schools since 2003.

Those tests found extremely high levels of radon inside the classrooms.

The state Attorney General’s office, which sought to dismiss the lawsuit, said Monday's decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd District found only that the state was not immune from such lawsuits.

The office said it will continue to defend the Department of Correction on the merits of the case.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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