On Feb. 24, 2016, a Jury in Philadelphia County Court, Penn., found that a Defendant corporation’s benzene was defective and that the Plaintiff’s exposure to the benzene materially contributed to his development of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), which is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

From 1973 to 2006, Plaintiff Louis DeSorba worked with printing solvents and inks containing Benzene. The Plaintiff routinely cleaned various parts and areas of presses and tools on a frequent basis. On Jan. 21, 2013, in his mid-50s, the Plaintiff was diagnosed with AML. He sued U.S. Steel on claims under theories of products liability and strict liability, including design defect and failure to warn, and claims of fraudulent concealment and recklessness. A number of other companies had been named as Defendants. The claims against those entities either were dismissed, or concluded, with the terms undisclosed, prior to this trial.

The Plaintiff’s lawyers contended at trial that U.S. Steel, with actual knowledge of benzene’s ability to cause leukemia and fatal blood diseases, intentionally withheld the information. Internal memoranda from 1952 to 1953 discussing U.S. Steel’s concern about cancer-causing risks in the area of its Pittsburgh-based plant that made benzene and questioned the requirement of putting warning labels on its benzene products, were presented to the jury.

The Plaintiff’s expert in industrial hygiene and engineering testified about the worker’s exposure to benzene, which occurred by way of inhalation and skin absorption. According to the expert, U.S. Steel failed to provide warnings that benzene caused cancers and fatal blood diseases; failed to advise users to use personal safety equipment like respirators; and in many cases, did not warn users that Benzene was in the product.

The Plaintiff’s expert in epidemiology discussed the history surrounding benzene’s health risks. As early as 1897, it had been known that benzene caused aplastic anemia, and by the 1920s, reports began to emerge about benzene being associated with leukemia, according to the expert. U.S Steel denied that it withheld information on the alleged health effects related to benzene exposure and its experts in medicine/epidemiology maintained that the Plaintiff’s U.S. Steel Benzene exposure did not cause his leukemia.

In addition to finding that U.S. Steel’s benzene was defective, and materially contributed to DeSorbo’s disease, jurors determined that U.S. Steel acted with reckless indifference to the rights and/or safety of others and fraudulently concealed material information about its benzene. The jury awarded DeSorbo $824,000, including amounts for past medical cost, future medical cost, past pain and suffering, future pain and suffering, and lost wages and benefits.

John Tomlinson, a lawyer in our firm’s Toxic Torts Section, is handling the Benzene exposure cases for the firm. If you need more information on this subject, contact John at 800-898-2034 or by email below.

Source: Verdict Search Products Liability/April 2016

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