Madison County weld rod trial getting under way

Steve Gonzalez Oct. 12, 2006, 10:37am

Circuit Judge Dan Stack

Jeff Hebrank

Robert Bosslet

Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack is picking a jury for a welding rod trial expected to last at least four weeks.

Michael Haskell of Forsythe, Ill. filed suit against ESAB Group, the BOC Group and Lincoln Electric on Oct. 15, 2004, claiming his exposure to manganese-containing welding products caused him to suffer neurological injuries, including Parkinson's disease.

Haskell, represented by Robert Bosslet of Granite City, claims the defendants were negligent and liable for failing to warn him of manganese exposure and liable for not providing fume extraction systems in the workplace. He is seeking damages in excess of $250,000.

He 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.

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.

That 2003 verdict is the only successful welding rod trial ever litigated in the United States. 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, presiding Associate Judge Ralph Mendelsohn reduced the $1 million award to $925,000 because of a prior settlement made by Elam.

In 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 represents the defendants in Haskell's case. Chicago attorney Pat Gloor also is a member of the defense team.

An expert from England is expected to testify at some point during the trial.

Bosslet was lead trial counsel in the Elam case. He attributed earlier onset of Parkinson's Disease to manganese in welding fumes.

More News