Articles Posted in Chemical Exposure Injuries

Plaintiffs Lenny and Tracy Chapman filed a lawsuit against Hiland Partners GP Holdings LLC, et al. who owned and operated a natural gas plant in North Dakota. Missouri Basin offers trucking services to gas companies in North Dakota. Hiland entered into a Master Service Contract (Hiland MSC) with Missouri Basin in 2008 whereby Missouri Basin, as “Contractor,” agreed to perform various services for Hiland.

As part of the agreement, Missouri Basin agreed to “indemnify, defend and save harmless Hiland Group . . . from and against any and all claims, demands, judgments, defense costs, or suits . . . in any way, directly or indirectly, arising out of or related to the performance of this Contract.”  The Hiland MSC also included an Oklahoma choice-of-law provision.

On Oct. 18, 2011, Hiland requested Missouri Basin to remove water from condensation tanks at the Watford plant. Missouri Basin contacted B&B Heavy Haul LLC who sent the plaintiff Lenny Chapman to the gas plant. Chapman arrived shortly after midnight.  He and an employee of Hiland began connecting the tank to the B&B truck that Chapman was driving. An explosion occurred and Chapman was seriously injured.

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The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago has affirmed a lower court decision by a federal judge dismissing Gregory Cripe’s lawsuit for exposure to chemical toxic fumes from Pur-Fect Lok 834A. This product is a glue made by the defendant, Henkel Corp. Cripe was exposed to the toxic fumes when he was working on his employer’s roof.

The glue in question contained methylene diphenyl diisocyanate, which can cause serious injury.

Cripe and his wife, Tammy, sued Henkel Corp. under the diversity of citizenship jurisdiction in federal court, contending that exposure to the chemical byproduct of the glue caused both neurological and psychological problems, which could have been prevented if the adhesive had better warnings.

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The on-the-job exposure to asbestos experienced by Ronnie Startley occurred in Alabama. Startley was a drywall finisher. However, for 3 to 4 months in 1965, he worked on approximately 50 jobs in Chicago with his cousin, Walter Startley. The Startleys used several brands of drywall joint compound that contained asbestos. Startley was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2013; he died a year later in Alabama. The Alabama statute of limitations blocked Startley’s estate’s claims there.

According to Walter Startley’s testimony, during an evidence deposition in the Illinois lawsuit that Ronnie’s estate filed against Welco Manufacturing Co., the manufacturer of Well-Coat, the joint compound they used for Chicago projects in 1965 were “USG, Gold Bond, Best Wall, and Wel-Coat.” He added, “Wel-Coat and Best Wall was the most we used.”

When Walter was asked whether he could recall having more jobs with “one product more than the other,” Walter said, “Well, I really can’t, because that’s a long time ago, but I remember the bags was being like gray-looking stuff and I imagine it would be Wel-Coat or Best Wall.”

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From 1959 to 1964, Rivers Sampson worked as a sandblaster and used silica as an abrasive agent.  In 2014, at the age of 77,  Sampson died of sepsis and silicosis, which is a progressive disease caused by inhaling silica dust. Having silica dust attached to the lungs causes inflammation and scarring.

Sampson’s two surviving adult children brought a lawsuit against more than 20 companies that mined and sold silica for use in sandblasting. It was alleged that these defendants chose not to warn of the health risks of silica exposure. Some of these defendants settled before the trial for confidential amounts or were otherwise dismissed from the case. However, the lawsuit did proceed to a jury verdict against Mississippi Valley Silica Co.

The Sampson family sought punitive damages claiming that the defendants, in choosing not to warn of the known health hazard, constituted actual malice or gross negligence. The Sampson family asserted that the defendant failed to add product warnings regarding the health hazards of silica exposure until 1972, although the industry was well aware of the dangers since at least the 1930s.

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Carus Corp. (Carus) was an international company that developed and sold chemical products for municipal and industrial applications. In a federal lawsuit, Carus was named as a defendant. Carus’s products included a chemical called Totalox, which essentially was designed as a deodorizer for sewer systems.

The town of Lexington (town) used Totalox in its sewer treatment plants. In 2010, John Machin, a town employee, was exposed to Totalox when a storage container valve broke during the delivery of Totalox to one of the town’s wastewater stations. He suffered reactive airways syndrome, which was also known as chemically induced asthma or obstructive lung disease.

As a result of his injuries, he filed a workers’ compensation claim and was allowed workers’ compensation benefits. The South Carolina Supreme Court accepted four certified questions from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina: (1) Under South Carolina law, when a plaintiff seeks recovery from a person, other than his employer, for an injury sustained on the job, may the jury hear an explanation of why the employer is not part of the instant action?; (2) when a plaintiff seeks recovery from a person, other than his employer, for an injury sustained on the job, may a defendant argue the empty chair defense and suggest that plaintiff’s employer is the wrongdoer?; (3) In connection with Question 2, if a defendant retains the right to argue the “empty chair” defense against a plaintiff’s employer, may a court instruct the jury that an employer’s legal responsibility has been determined by another forum, specifically, the state’s workers’ compensation commission?; and (4) when a plaintiff seeks recovery from a person, other than his employer, for an injury sustained on the job, may the court allow the jury to apportion fault against the nonparty employer by placing the name of the employer on the verdict form?

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The plaintiff Stephen Limoges claimed that he suffered significant pulmonary injuries as a result of inhaling the toxic fumes following a chemical spill. Plaintiffs brought suit against three different entities, including Arden Engineering Constructors LLC, alleging that they were individually and collectively responsible for Limoges’s injuries. Mr. Limoges was an employee of the State of Rhode Island as an Assistant Administrator to Facilities and Operations. His duties included overseeing the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC) in the state’s courthouses.  The Limoges lawsuit claimed that on August 8, 2008, a pipe that carried bromine in the HVAC system at a judicial complex in Providence ruptured causing a chemical spill.  When this pipe burst, Mr. Limoges rushed to the scene to stop the leak.  Limoges asserted that while he was trying to stop the leak, he inhaled bromine which caused his serious pulmonary injuries.  Limoges’ wife was a party plaintiff in this case claiming loss of consortium.

Arden Engineering filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial level judge granted. Limoges appealed, arguing that that the court made an improper credibility assessment about the affidavit of the Limoges expert and because the judge overlooked material issues of fact that were in dispute. Arden had argued that the Limoges expert’s affidavit was false and that the expert did not provide a basis for his opinions.  Arden maintained that this expert’s affidavit was completely failed to identify one fact which would make Arden responsible, let alone owe a duty to Limoges.

Limoges argued that the expert’s affidavit was sufficient to establish duty and breach, particularly at the summary-judgment phase of the proceedings.

The state Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that the plaintiff’s expert’s affidavit, combined with the documents that were available to the hearing justice, raised a material  issue of fact as to whether Arden Engineering was responsible for Limoges’s injury.  The attorney representing the Limoges family was Amato A. DeLuca of Providence, RI.

 

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West Side Salvage had insurance coverage from RSUI Indemnity that included $12 million in liability insurance and a secondary level of $11 million in coverage. The underlying lawsuit involved the injuries to John Jentz and Robert Schmidt who were severely injured when a grain elevator exploded. ConAgra was the owner of the storage grain elevator and hired West Side Salvage to eliminate explosive hazards. When Jentz and Schmidt sued ConAgra and West Side, ConAgra sued the independent contractor.

During trial, it seemed that the defense witnesses were ineffective. There was a “scramble” to settle the case.

“It is clear from the record that every attorney who worked on this case thought at one time or another that there should have been a way to settle the case,” wrote Chief U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. Reagan. “Emails and letters during the trial showed the insistence of various parties on finding a way to settle, and the deposition testimony and declarations of lawyers reflect almost a sense of remorse that settlement never was achieved in the underlying litigation.”

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Juan Suarez used Goof Off, an extremely flammable product made by the defendant W.M. Barr & Co., to remove paint from a basement floor. While he was removing the paint, a fire erupted in the basement and severely burned him. Suarez and his wife sued W.M. Barr claiming it chose not warn and for failing by producing a defective product design under Illinois law. After the U.S. District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Barr, the Suarezes appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago.

The appeals panel concluded that the district judge appropriately rejected the Suarezes’ failure-to-warn claim. The warning label on the Goof Off can adequately identified the product’s principal hazards, as well as the precautionary measures to be taken while using the product.

However, the appeals panel reversed and remanded the district court’s rejection of the Suarezes’ design defect claims under both strict liability and negligence. The Suarezes have adequately shown that the fire may have been caused by static sparks created when Juan agitated Goof Off with a brush, as the warning label instructed.

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An Illinois jury has entered a $7.5 million verdict against a railroad company for the injuries to a worker exposed to benzene. The worker had been employed by two different railroad companies over 30 years. His job included loading and unloading creosote-soaked railroad ties, which caused him to be covered in wet creosote. Creosote contains benzene, which is a known carcinogen.  This worker was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), which later progressed into acute myeloid leukemia (ACL). This occurred in 2008.

The worker filed his lawsuit in 2010 claiming that he developed leukemia (ACL) as a result of his long-term exposure to the benzene and other chemicals while working for the predecessor railroad company.

At trial, it was heard that the predecessor railroad knew of the dangers of benzene exposure as early as the mid-1980s. At that time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a memo advising the company that it needed to comply with certain safety regulations, including providing employees with adequate protective equipment such as boots, gloves, respirators and goggles. The worker in this case argued that the railroad company did not comply with these regulations.

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Dennis Seay worked for Daniel Construction Co., which was a contractor for Celanese Corp. From 1971 through 1980, he did maintenance work at the Celanese polyester fiber plant located in Spartanburg, S.C. Seay was exposed to asbestos-containing products while working at Celanese. The different jobs that Seay had included handling various brands of gaskets, packing and insulation manufactured by John Crane Inc. and others for use on and in equipment throughout the Celanese plant.

In 2013, Seay at age 69 was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Seay underwent 3 procedures to reduce the size of his tumor and multiple procedures to drain fluid from his lung, which had collapsed on various occasions. Seay unfortunately died the following year at age 70. He was survived by his wife, two adult sons and one adult daughter.

Seay’s daughter, individually and on behalf of his estate and his wife, sued Celanese Corp. alleging that the company was aware of exposure to asbestos products used throughout the plant but chose not to warn of the dangers or to take other steps to protect workers like Seay. The Seay family contended that Celanese was in complete control of the plant and was responsible for auditing the safety program provided by Seay’s employer to ensure that it was adequate.

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