Articles Posted in Diesel fumes litigation

In this case a man was rendered unconscious after being exposed to toxic fumes in a large container while he was working inside of it.  Fortunately for this worker, he was rescued by the local fire department. His employer, Dana Container, wound up fighting citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  The administrative law judge and the Occupational Safety Review Commission upheld OSHA’s actions, and Dana then turned to the U.S. Court of Appeals for review. Because Dana has not provided a compelling reason to overturn the commission’s determination, the petition for review was denied.

Dana operates a truck-tank washing facility near the Stevenson Expressway in Summit, Ill. The tanks cleaned at Dana’s facility are long metallic cylinders used to transport products such as ink and latex. After the tanks were emptied at their destination, truckers then brings them to Dana’s facility for cleaning so that they can haul different products without changes.

Before washing a tank, employees drain any residual product from it.  Then employees insert a mechanical spinner that rotates scrubbers from one end of the tank to the other, simultaneously dousing it with soap or solvent (or both).  Then the tanks are given a final rinse of water and blown dry. Most of the time, this process works fine in cleaning the tanks. When it does not work, employees enter the tank and manually clean out the remaining sludge or residue. Because the tank space is confined and may contain chemicals that are hazardous to health, OSHA has promulgated regulations that require companies to enforce certain safety precautions when their employees enter these “permit-required confined spaces (PRCSs).”  29 C.F.R. ¶1910.146.

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Joseph Sondag was alleged in this lawsuit to have been exposed to asbestos dust from drywall tape manufactured by Tremco when he worked as a plasterer from 1957 to 1983. In 2007, he was diagnosed with pleural plaques and interstitial fibrosis.

At trial, Sondag’s treating physician, Dr. Al Rossi, testified that these conditions were probably caused by on-the-job exposure to asbestos. However, Dr. Rossi did not diagnose Sondag as suffering any symptoms from this condition.

According to Sondag’s wife, Phyllis, and their daughter, he suffered from shortness of breath. But he was an ex-smoker and was 82 when the case was tried. There was no expert testimony that the pleural plaques and interstitial fibrosis were symptomatic.

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A Pennsylvania jury found that benzene is a defective product whose exposure contributed to the development of cancer of the blood and bone marrow, otherwise known as acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).

In the years 1973 to 2006, the plaintiff, Louis DeSorbo, worked with printing solvents and inks that contained benzene.  He routinely cleaned various parts and areas of the printing presses and tools. On Jan. 21, 2013, DeSorbo, in his mid-50s, was diagnosed with AML.

He filed a lawsuit against U.S. Steel claiming that under the theory of product strict liability and design defect and failure to warn and claims of fraudulent concealment and recklessness, the company was liable for his development of AML. There were other companies also named as defendants. The claims against those other entities were either dismissed or resolved for terms that were not disclosed.  Those other entities were out of the case before the start of this trial.

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In a recent workers’ compensation case, a bus mechanic who was diagnosed with lung cancer was told his illness was caused by exposure to diesel exhaust. The ruling in that case sent alarms out that the burning of diesel fuel has caused widespread worker injuries to those breathing diesel fumes.

Diesel fuel, also known as No. 2 oil, is a heavier product of the refined crude oil. It is widely used in machinery, small engines, trucks, forklifts and buses.

Those exposed to diesel fumes include children on school buses, as well as employees working in confined spaces in warehouses.

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