Oklahoma couple files benzene suit in Madison County

Ann Knef Apr. 11, 2007, 8:00am

Randy Gori

A Tulsa, Okla. couple is suing 80 defendant corporations in Madison County Circuit Court claiming benzene exposure.

According to a suit filed by John and Edith Jones on April 5, venue is appropriate because eight corporations are qualified to do business in Illinois and four are Illinois corporations.

The suit claims there is no federal question and incomplete diversity of citizenship due to the presence of Illinois defendants.

The long list of defendants includes Apex Oil, Atlantic Richfield, BP Products North America, Chemtool, Illinois Pipeline, Premcor Refining Group, Shell Oil and Sinclair Oil as corporations qualified to conduct business in Illinois.

Jones, who worked for nine of the defendants from 1972 until 2001, claims he first became aware he developed leukemia in May 2005. He claims it was chemically induced.

His former employers included Boeing Co. and Rockwell International.

The suit claims Jones' exposure to benzene was completely foreseeable and could or should have been anticipated by the defendants. It also claims the defendants knew or should have known that benzene had a toxic, poisonous and highly deleterious effect upon the health of the persons inhaling, ingesting or otherwise absorbing it.

The 16-count suit seeks in excess of $800,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

Edith Jones claims she has been deprived of the services, society, companionship, love and affection of her husband.

They are represented by Randy L. Gori and Allyson M. Romani of Goldenberg Heller Antognoli Rowland Short & Gori of Edwardsville.

Benzene is an aromatic hydrocarbon that is produced by the burning of natural products. It is a component of products derived from coal and petroleum and is found in gasoline and other fuels and is used to make some types of rubbers, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides.

Natural sources of benzene include volcanoes and forest fires. Benzene also is a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke.

Benzene, which is known to be a carcinogen, is used in the manufacture of plastics, detergents, pesticides and other chemicals.

Jones claims the defendants failed to exercise ordinary care and caution for his safety, health and welfare by, among other things:

  • Including benzene in their products and processes, even though it was completely foreseeable that people living around them would inhale or ingest benzene;

  • Including benzene in their products while defendants knew or should have known that carcinogenic chemicals would have a toxic, poisonous and highly deleterious effect on those handling them;

  • Including benzene when adequate substitutes were available;

  • Failing to allocate any or adequate funds to test, monitor, and research the human health affects of benzene-containing products or processes on residents living in proximity of where benzene was being used;

  • Failing to provide any or adequate warnings to people living around the area;

  • Failing to recommend the use of adequate personal protective equipment inhaling or living around benzene; and

  • Failing to recall or cease using benzene and products and processes containing benzene.

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