Plaintiff testifies in benzene case as trial opens second week

Amelia Flood Aug. 24, 2010, 1:55pm



The plaintiff in a Madison County benzene trial took the stand Tuesday morning and testified into the afternoon about his work with products he claims contain the substance that caused his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The maker of those products, 3M Co., denies that any traces of benzene that might have been found in their products had anything to do with Veto Kleinaitis's disease.

The trial entered its second week when testimony began Tuesday morning.

The plaintiff is seeking more than $1 million in damages.

Kleinaitis claims that 3M, the maker of adhesives, solvents and Scotch Tape, used raw ingredients that were contaminated with benzene.

He then claims that his use of those products in his job as an aircraft mechanic in Bethalto led to the development of mantle cell lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Kleinaitis was diagnosed with the cancer in 2005.

3M claims that its products did not use benzene as a raw ingredient and that the traces found in its products were within legal limits. It points to other sources of Kleinaitis' benzene exposure including his continued use of cigarettes.

The suit is one of the survivors of a batch of 17 benzene cases the SimmonsCooper law firm filed between 2004 and 2006.

It originally named more than 20 defendants.

All but 3M dropped out of the case or settled.

Kleinaitis told jurors from the stand that he worked with 3M products such as Top and Trim, from the time he graduated from college in the late 1980s.

Kleinaitis and his attorney, William Kohlburn, went through his work history and his use of the 3M products.

Kleinaitis testified that at most of the places he worked there were not set safety guidelines or mandates of precautions such as respirators.

"Just general common sense has a lot to do with precautions," Kleinaitis said.

He said he did take safety precautions when using 3M's products such as wearing gloves, but that it was not always feasible depending on what job or product he was using.

The trial will continue Wednesday.

Testimony in the case opened Aug. 18.

Kleinaitis is represented by Kohlburn, Ted Gianaris and others.

3M is represented by Amanda Cialkowski of Nilan Johnson Lewis of Minneapolis. Bill Book and others join Cialkowski at the defense table.

Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis presides.

The case is Madison case number 05-L-1050.

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3M Center
Maplewood, MN 55119

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