Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Dismissal of Lawsuit Alleging Birth Defects In Utero Caused by Father’s Exposure to Toxic Chemicals

Sarina Finzer and Jeremy Hardison were born with severe birth defects. Their disabilities were claimed to have been caused in utero by their fathers’ exposure to toxic chemical fumes and airborne substances during their employment at Motorola Inc.’s semiconductor manufacturing plants in Arizona and Texas. The parents of these children are seeking damages, suing Motorola for (1) negligence, (2) strict tort liability, (3) breach of an assumed duty, (4) willful and wanton misconduct, and (5) loss of child consortium relating to the children’s birth defects and impairment to the parent-child relationship.

At the trial court level, it was found that plaintiffs could prove no set of facts that would entitle them to relief and thus the trial judge dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint pursuant to Section 2-615 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure.

The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal, asserting that the trial judge erred in finding that (1) the exclusive remedy provision of the respective state workers’ compensation laws barred their claims, (2) no duty was owed to a not-yet conceived child, and (3) proximate cause could not be established as a matter of law, given that the fathers did not sustain an injury. Plaintiffs also claimed that the trial court erred in dismissing the willful and wanton misconduct count and the plaintiffs’ loss of child consortium count, which depended on pleading a viable cause of action for negligence.

Construing the allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s dismissal of plaintiffs’ complaint. The appeals panel found that plaintiffs properly pled a cause of action for negligence and willful and wanton misconduct under both Arizona and Texas law and loss of child consortium under Arizona law and thus the case was remanded back for further proceedings consistent with that opinion.

This case was one of eight separate personal injury lawsuits filed against Motorola relating to severe birth defects in children of former Motorola employees who were exposed to toxic chemical products and substances that Motorola provided or approved of while working in semiconductor manufacturing “around clean rooms,” where semiconductor wafers, microchips, and boards were manufactured.

A “clean room” is a controlled environment used for manufacturing high technology products. Lucent Technologies Inc. v. Mid-West Electronics Inc., 49 S.W. 3d 236, 239 n. 2 (Mo. Ct. App. 2001). Clean rooms are designed to prevent airborne contaminants from contacting semiconductor components during the manufacturing process. Motorola Solutions Inc. v. Zurich Insurance Co., 2015 IL App (1st) 131529, ¶6.

Motorola is headquartered in Illinois but has semiconductor manufacturing plants in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe and Chandler, Az., as well as a facility in Austin, Texas.

The children referred to in this case are Sarina Finzer, born in 1999, and Jeremy Hardison, born in 2000. The children’s fathers worked at Motorola’s semiconductor manufacturing plant in Mesa, Az.

Motorola had moved to dismiss the cases pursuant to Section 2-615 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure asserting in part, that despite alleging no direct injury to their father, the children’s injuries were nonetheless derivative of a work-related injury to their father’s reproductive systems, and a claim under the workers’ compensation law was the children’s exclusive remedy.

The plaintiffs argued that because the children suffered their own personal injuries, those injuries were not derivative of any workplace injury to their father and thus the trial judge was wrong in finding that the exclusive remedy provisions of the workers’ compensation act barred their negligence claims. The Illinois Appellate Court agreed with plaintiffs that the dismissal of the lawsuit was in error. The cases are now pending.

Ledeaux, et al. v. Motorola, 2018 IL App (1st) 161345 (Feb. 20, 2018).

Kreisman Law Offices has been successfully handling worksite injury lawsuits, product liability injury cases, diesel fume exposure lawsuits, toxic fume exposure lawsuits, birth defect cases, birth trauma injury lawsuits and brain injury cases for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Worth, Alsip, South Holland, Blue Island, River Grove, Inverness, Bloomingdale, Naperville, New Lenox, Chicago (Wicker Park, Rogers Park, Englewood, Hegewisch, Lake Calumet, Marquette Park, Albany Park, Bronzeville), Long Grove, Wilmette, Highland Park, Lake Zurich and Palatine, Ill.

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