Weld rod suit filed by Whiteside County man

Ann Knef Feb. 7, 2006, 2:00am

A Whiteside County man who was employed for nine years by Allied Locke in Dixon, Ill. is suing Panasonic, Toshiba, Miller Electric Manufacturing Co. and Illinois Tool Works in Madison County.

Russell Brown claims his exposure to welding products that contained manganese caused him to suffer neurological injuries, including Parkinson's Disease. He worked for Allied Locke between 1995 and 2004.

Brown, represented by D. Keith Short and Holly A. Reese of Goldenberg, Miller, Heller & Antognoli of Edwardsville, claims the defendants were negligent and liable for failing to warn him of manganese exposure and liable for not providing fume extraction sytems in the workplace. He is seeking damages in excess of $50,000.

The suit filed Feb. 3 claims the defendants should have known of the inherent health hazards of the products they sold, distributed or used. It also claims that manganese exposure for a period as short as 49 days can cause neurological damage.

Welding products cause emissions of fumes that contain manganese which has been medically recognized as toxic to the human central nervous system in levels that exceed the trace amounts normally found in the human body.

According to the complaint, the defendants concealed safety information gathered by various trade organizations, such as the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, American Welding Society and Ferroalloys Association.

"...The defendants acted with the intent to conceal the health hazards of welding fumes, and specifically manganese, knowing that their studies, publications, specifications and standards would be adopted and relied upon by manufacturers, sellers, large consumers of welding products and equipment, and governmental agencies as the authoritative source for warnings, instructions, and precautionary measures printed on product labels and otherwise distributed in the stream of commerce," the complaint states.

Allied Locke Industrices Inc. and the American Welding Society have been named as respondents in discovery.

In December 2005, the 5th Appellate Court upheld a $1 million Madison County jury verdict in favor of a Collinsville man's claim that manganese in welding rods caused his Parkinson's Disease.

The 2003 verdict is the only successful welding rod trial ever litigated in the United States.

In that case, Larry Elam filed suit against Lincoln Electric, Hobart Brothers and The BOC Group in July 2001 claiming the defendants were negligent in failing to investigate welding health hazards and providing adequate warnings. He also claimed they should be held strictly liable because of lack of investigation and adequate warnings.

After a four-week trial and $1 million verdict, presiding Associate Judge Ralph Mendelsohn's reduced the award to $925,000 because of a prior settlement made by Elam.

Also last December, after deliberating two hours, a Madison County jury ruled in favor of the defense in a Cape Girardeau man's weld rod trial that lasted a month.

Welder Steve Boren filed suit more than five years ago alleging he suffered neurological injuries after being exposed to manganese-containing welding fumes. He was seeking close to $7 million in damages.

Some of the defendants on trial in that case included Praxair, Viacom, Union Carbide, The BOC Group, Sandvik Inc, and Lincoln Electric.

Jeff Hebrank of the Burroughs law firm in Edwardsville represented several of the defendants. Chicago attorney Pat Gloor also was a member of the defense team.

Boren was represented by Goldenberg Miller Heller & Antognoli of Edwardsville and the Vaughan Cascino Law Offices in Chicago.

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