TV ad informs laborer of benzene link to disease

Steve Gonzalez Feb. 13, 2008, 10:32pm

Had it not been for a television advertisement, laborer Steve Ivkovcic may not have known the reason he developed acute myelogenous leukemia was because of benzene-containing products he was exposed to at work.

Ivkovcic, a machinist and tool and die maker, filed a benzene suit against 11 defendant corporations in Madison County Circuit Court Feb. 7, alleging benzene caused his disease.

"Steve Ivkovcic did not know that the products (he was exposed to at work) contained benzene, or that benzene could cause Acute Myelogenous Leukemia until approximately August of 2007 when he saw a television advertisement," the complaint states.

Ivkovcic was employed at Pactiv in Wheeling, Ill. from 1986 until 2007, and at Johnson Motors in Waukegan, Ill. from 1970 until 1986.

He claims that during his employment at Johnson Motors, he was exposed to benzene and benzene-containing products which were manufactured and/or sold by the defendants, which include BP Products North America Inc., BP Corporation North America Inc., BP Amoco Chemical Company, Exxon Corporation, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Exxon Mobil Oil, Radiator Specialty Company, Sunoco, Inc., Sunoco (R&M), United States Steel and Aristech Chemical.

Ivkovcic claims the benzene-containing products consisted of products known as "Naptha" which was manufactured by Amoco and Mobil.

According to the complaint, Naptha was manufactured at Amoco at its Wood River refinery.

He was diagnosed with AML in the summer of 2006, the complaint states.

AML is a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow - the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made.

Ivkovcic claims the defendants were negligent by failing to use ordinary care to eliminate benzene from products and failed to provide a safe place for him to work.

He also claims the defendants failed to give adequate warnings of the harmful effects associated with exposure to benzene and benzene-containing products and failed to provide adequate safety equipment and/or failed to recommend adequate safety and control measures.

According to Ivkovcic, his disease has disabled and disfigured him, caused him to incur medical expenses, and has caused great physical pain and mental anguish.

Represented by Thomas Schwartz of Holloran, White & Schwartz in St. Louis and L. Jeth Jones of Houston, Ivkovcic is seeking damages in excess of $150,000, plus costs of the suit.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron.

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