Benzene exposure blamed in worker's Madison County suit

Steve Gonzalez Oct. 30, 2007, 3:31am

The estate of Rusty Burns filed suit against 19 defendant corporations in Madison County Circuit Court claiming benzene exposure.

According to the complaint, Burns worked for various employers including Helmkamp Construction in Wood River and Wright Industrial in Madison cleaning benzene and benzene-containing petroleum at the Amoco Oil and Conoco refineries in Wood River, Granite City Steel, Illinois Power Company in East Alton, Premcor Refining in Hartford and Shell Oil in Wood River.

The suit claims Burns' 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 eight-count suit seeks in excess of $400,000 in compensatory damages and attorney fees.

Burns' estate claims his next of kin has been deprived of the services, society, companionship, love and affection of Burns and also claims they spent a substantial amount of money on burial and funeral expenses.

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.

The estate 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.

    According to the estate, prior to his death, Burns suffered pain, suffering, anguish, disability, lost wages and medical expenses as a result of his benzene related illness.

    The estate is represented by Richard Saville, Jr., Robert Evola and Ethan Flint of Alton.

    07 L 924

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