Defendants remove silicosis case to federal court

Ann Knef May 12, 2006, 8:11am

Attorneys for Kerr-McGee and Tronox LLC removed a Madison County silicosis case to federal court May 5 arguing that an Illinois trucking company had been fraudulently joined in the complaint.

On Aug. 22, 2005, a former chemical plant worker and his wife filed a 17-count lawsuit in Madison County Circuit Court claiming long-term exposure to titanium dust and silica products caused him to suffer a disabling lung disease.

Represented by Robert D. Rowland of Goldenberg, Miller, Heller & Antognoli in Edwardsville, James and Lori Bergman of Pittsfield name eight defendants in a $850,000 silicosis lawsuit.

United Gilsonite Laboratories (UGL), U.S. Silica, Miller Trucking, Dupont and Dupont Titanium Technologies, Kerr-McGee Corp., Kerr McGee Chemical and Krnonos Worldwide "knew or should have known" that the products they put in the the stream of commerce were dangerous and defective, the Bergmans claim.

Representing Kerr-McGee and Tronox LLC, Michael P. Connolly and Garret C. Carter of Connolly Roberts & McGivney in Chicago argued that an entity that transports goods "is outside the manufacturing and distribution system contemplated by products liability theories and is thus not liable here."

On April 7, plaintiffs amended the complaint and added Lotz Trucking of Illinois. On April 25, plaintiffs dismissed Miller Trucking.

"Plaintiffs cannot establish a cause of action against Lotz Trucking, the only non-diverse defendant that will remain after the dismissal of Miller Trucking," the removal notice states. "Lotz Trucking is therefore fraudulently joined."

Bergman was a maintenance department manager at United Gilsonite Laboratories in Jacksonville for 16 years, from 1986 to 2002.

"UGL knew prior to the time plaintiff sustained permanent injury that the titanium dioxide, silica products and other chemicals in the Jacksonville, Ill. plant could cause permanent lung injury but failed to properly warn employees of the dangers of lung injury," according to the suit.

"As a result of his exposure...plaintiff has developed silicosis/pneumoconiosis and is permanently disabled as a result," the suit states.

Lori Berman seeks damages for loss of consortium.

"Lori Bergman has suffered the loss of income, support and services of plaintiff James Bergman in the past and will continue to suffer loss in the future," the suit states.

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