Illinois Jury Enters $7.5 Million Benzene Exposure Verdict

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.

At the jury trial, one of the plaintiff’s experts testified that even slight exposure to benzene can cause leukemia. It was also argued that the defendant railroad knew about the toxicity of the benzene and other toxic chemicals for years and that it knew how to handle those substances safely but chose not to take the appropriate action to provide safe protective gear for its workers. On the other hand, the railroad’s medical experts testified at the jury trial that physicians do not know the cause of most cases of acute myeloid leukemia and that the worker-plaintiff was not exposed to the toxins in sufficient amounts to cause acute myeloid leukemia.

The jury entered a verdict in the worker’s favor for $3 million for past and future medical expenses; $1.5 million for disability experienced and reasonably to be experience in the future; $1.3 million for loss of normal life experienced and reasonably to be experienced in the future; $1 million for pain and suffering; and $700,000 for lost earnings.

It should be noted that when a railroad negligently violates any employee’s safety law or regulation, it becomes liable for pain, injury and wrongful death claims brought under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA).

The attorney representing the worker in this case was Fred Gray.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling worker injury cases, benzene exposure cases, construction injury cases, catastrophic injury cases and wrongful death cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Glencoe, Morton Grove, Niles, Des Plaines, Winfield, Winnetka, Wheaton, St. Charles, Aurora, Joliet, Bolingbrook, Joliet, Romeoville, Bensenville, Schiller Park, Lake Bluff, Gurnee, Fox River Grove, Crystal Lake and Evanston, Ill.

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