Articles Posted in Toxic Chemicals

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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Nathaniel Cooper, 24, was working in the packing area of a United Parcel Services (UPS) facility when he suffered heat exhaustion that led to his fatal cardiac event. He is survived by his fiancé and a minor child.

His fiancé, on behalf of the couple’s child, sued UPS claiming it was negligent in that it directed Cooper to work in unsafe conditions despite knowing that he had cardiac problems.

The lawsuit also claimed that UPS was grossly negligent for choosing not to install an adequate ventilation system, establish mandatory rest schedules and monitor workers for heat stress. Apparently the UPS facility where Cooper was working was an enclosed area that held heat at high temperatures. Continue reading

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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There are more than 1,200 lawsuits pending against Johnson & Johnson by women who used talc powder products for feminine hygiene and now claim they developed ovarian cancer.

In a three-week trial in Missouri state court, the jurors deliberated for a day before returning a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. This is the second St. Louis, Mo., trial regarding Johnson & Johnson and baby powder talc.

In this case, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay a total of $55 million to Gloria Ristesund of South Dakota. The jury’s verdict was made up of $5 million in compensatory damages and another $50 million in punitive damages. This verdict was entered just four months after Johnson & Johnson lost a $72 million lawsuit involving the same Johnson & Johnson baby powder talc, which has been associated with ovarian cancer.

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Carl Rogers had been working at a tire plant owned by Kelly-Springfield Tire Co., which is a Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. subsidiary. He started working at the plant in 1969 and left employment after just one year. He returned to work there in 1975, and he continued working through the mid-1980s. Rogers worked with various tire-building machines but also used asbestos-containing brake assemblies.

He was exposed to asbestos during his ongoing repair and replacement of asbestos pipe installation at the Goodyear plant.

In August 2008, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of being exposed to asbestos. He died the next year at the age of 60 survived by his wife and two adult daughters. His paid medical expenses stipulated at the jury trial were $170,000.

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On Jan. 9, 2014, a tank at Freedom Industries in Charleston, W.Va., leaked coal-cleaning chemicals into the Elk River about a mile and a half upstream from a water treatment plant. Tap water in the area began to smell like licorice. The water also had a blue-green color. Drinking the water was prohibited for several days. Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy protection eight days after the spill.

The top executive of the company has been alleged to have lied about his role with the company to protect his personal wealth of nearly $8 million from lawsuits. The FBI is investigating.

Freedom Industries’ president, Gary Southern, repeatedly told investigators he had little to do with the company before it was sold a few weeks prior to the January 2014 chemical spill.

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In a case that involved thousands of toxic tort liability cases, the Illinois Appellate Court has ruled that an industrial manufacturer must turn over documents it alleged were privileged to a company indemnifying it.

In March 1999, automotive systems manufacturer BorgWarner Inc. acquired Kuhlman Corp. and its subsidiaries, including Kuhlman Electric Corp (KEC).

Since the 1950s, KEC has operated a facility in Mississippi that produces electrical transformers. As part of the Kuhlman Corp. sale, KEC represented that there was no soil contamination on its Mississippi property.

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James Folta had stopped working at Ferro Engineering 41 years before he was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma. He claimed that while working for Ferro Engineering he was exposed to “tremendous amounts of airborne asbestos fibers.” According to the lawsuit, Folta knew that exposure to asbestos dust was dangerous, but Ferro Engineering did not warn him and did not provide respiratory safety equipment.

By the time Folta received the fatal diagnosis, the statutes of repose had expired for claims under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act (the statute is 25 years) and the Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act (the statute is 3 years after the claimant stopped working for the employer).

As Folta had no other available course of action, he filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County claiming that his mesothelioma was caused by the negligence of Ferro Engineering. Because of the exclusive-remedy provisions found in the Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Diseases statutes, the lawsuit was dismissed. Continue reading

In August 2008, 30-year-old Kevin Harrison was working for Norfolk Southern Railway when he was exposed to acid fumes from a leaking barrel at Norfolk’s rail yard in Hammond, Ind.  The acid had been shipped from Michigan in an inter-modal container owned by the defendant K Line America, which is a subsidiary of a Japanese company.

One day earlier, the driver for the defendant trucking company, Mason Dixon Intermodal, had selected the K Line container from those available at the Mason & Dixon’s Lines Inc. yard in Dearborn, Mich.

The Mason Dixon Intermodal driver inspected the interior of the container and then drove it to the loading dock of Beaver Packaging & Crating, where Beaver employees loaded 40- to 55-gallon polymer drums filled with 30 percent strength acetic acid into the inter-modal container. 

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