John Blommer worked as an apprentice carman repairing railroad cars for Great Northern Railway, which was the predecessor to BNSF Railway Co. He started working at the railroad in 1953 and worked for several months before joining the U.S. Army. He returned to the railroad after his military service and then left his employment in 1956 to work at the U.S. Postal Service. In all, Blommer worked for the railroad for a total of nearly 26 months. During that time, he was exposed daily to asbestos from various products he handled. Asbestos was found to be included in pipe wrapping, insulation, raw asbestos fibers and other asbestos-containing products.
In 2010, Blommer, then age 78, was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He underwent chemotherapy treatments and talc pleurodesis, which is a procedure in which fluid is drained from the lining of the lungs; then the ribcage and lining are scraped and filled with a talc product to glue the lungs to the ribcage. The purpose is to prevent the fluid from returning. After about two years, the fluid did return and Blommer underwent additional chemotherapy until the treatments were no longer effective.
Blommer sued BNSF under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) claiming that the railroad chose not to provide a safe workplace by protecting employees from asbestos exposure.
Blommer and his spouse sued the railroad, stating it was aware of the hazards of asbestos for decades but chose not warn its employees or implement simple procedures, such as training employees to wet down asbestos dust before sweeping it. Blommer died while the lawsuit was pending. His family, represented by his wife, was substituted for him as the plaintiff named in the case.
The Blommer family presented expert testimony that exposure to asbestos fibers released from railroad products had caused Mr. Blommer’s mesothelioma. There were also documents presented to the jury from two decades before Mr. Blommer started working for BNSF that showed that the railroads and their physicians discussed the risks of asbestos and recognized the steps necessary of protecting employees. Nevertheless the Blommer family contended that the defendant BNSF failed to implement preventive techniques. There were also documents from annual meetings held by the American Railroad Association that confirmed that BNSF’s predecessor knew of the risks and presence of asbestos that were dangerous in exposing its employees.
BNSF argued that Blommer was not exposed to asbestos as the railroad in sufficient quantities to have caused his mesothelioma. The defendant claimed Blommer was exposed to asbestos during his military service and at his job at the office post office and later at his work at a hardware store. In other words, BNSF said that all of the other employers of Blommer were the proximate cause of his mesothelioma and not the railroad. BNSF also argued that the asbestos in the products used at the railroad contained chrysotile asbestos, which is not likely to have caused mesothelioma.
After the jury deliberated this case, it entered a verdict of $5,240,000 which included $3,240,000 for Blommer’s past physical pain and $2 million for his past mental anguish. BNSF has filed a motion of judgment notwithstanding the verdict, which is still pending.
The attorneys representing Blommer and his family were Kirk L. Pittard, Kevin M. Camp, J. Weldon Grainger, Bruce E. Halstead and Benjamin R. Grainger.
At the trial, Blommer’s attorneys engaged expert witnesses in industrial hygiene, industry history and public health and internal medicine. The defendants brought forth experts in occupational medicine, toxicology and industrial hygiene.
Blommer v. BNSF Railway, No. 017-264234-13 (Tex, Tarrant Co. Jud. Dist., Oct. 10, 2014).
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling asbestos exposure cases, mesothelioma cases, work injury cases, product liability and death cases in construction site accident 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 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including New Lenox, Buffalo Grove, Hinsdale, Wheaton, Oak Lawn, Northbrook, Morton Grove, Lockport, Lemont, Lake Forest, Highland Park, Lincolnshire, Fox River Grove, Des Plaines, Deerfield and Western Springs, Ill.
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