A woman’s lawsuit against BP, Shell Oil Co., and other companies alleging they exposed her husband to benzene emissions that contributed to his fatal cancer diagnosis was restored by an Illinois appeals court, Law360 reported. The panel found that a lower court had ruled that plaintiff Cheryl Stamper waited too long to file the lawsuit.
Stamper claims that the two-year statute of limitations clock for when she learned of the possible connection between her husband Steve Stamper’s glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) and his exposure to benzene should start when she read an article linking benzene exposure to her husband’s cancer. Prior to that time, it was just a hunch.
Steve Stamper worked for the public works street department in Roxana, Illinois, which was located close to a refinery. He also repaired streets and sewer lines near the refinery. In 2010, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. In 2011, he filed an application with the state workers’ compensation commission claiming his cancer was linked to regular exposure to benzene. In 2013, he joined a multi-plaintiff lawsuit against the energy companies that used the refinery for negligence in its role in exposing people to carcinogens like benzene. That lawsuit was later settled.
Steve Stamper died in 2014. Cheryl Stamper filed a wrongful death lawsuit against BP Products North America, Shell Oil Co., ConocoPhillips Co., and Turtle Wax Inc., alleging her husband’s brain cancer “was proximately caused by exposure to benzene from products manufactured by Turtle Wax” and exposure to the chemical from the refinery that the other companies operated.
The lower court said that the statute of limitations clock should have begun when Steve Stamper filed his workers’ compensation claim. But Cheryl Stamper, in her 2017 complaint, said that no doctor had ever confirmed the link. It was merely a hunch until 2016, when she read a medical article explaining the connection between the chemical and his type of cancer.
The appeals court found that the lower court had made its ruling based on Cheryl Stamper’s suspicions and not the understanding that she gained years later.
Benzene is a chemical that is emitted from refineries and chemical plants. Exposure to the chemical whether through inhalation or skin absorption can cause life-threatening diseases including Acute Myeloma Leukemia (AML), Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), lymphomas and aplastic Anemia.