Shell Oil and others named in Madison County benzene suit

Kelly Holleran Aug. 2, 2011, 3:35pm


A man claims he developed leukemia after being exposed to benzene while growing up near a Shell Oil plant.

Greg Wells filed a lawsuit July 20 in Madison County Circuit Court against Shell Oil Company, BP Products North America, ConocoPhillips Company, WRB Refining and URS Corporation.

In his complaint, Wells claims he grew up in a home at 331 South Central in Wood River where he lived until 1996. He also attended school in the Wood River community, close to Wood River facilities owned by Shell and BP.

At the facilities, Shell and BP processed and stored benzene, a highly toxic chemical classified as a human carcinogen, according to the complaint.

The same benzene produced at the facilities discharged into the surrounding air and water, causing Wells to be exposed to the pollutant, the suit states.

Because of his exposure, Wells developed acute myelogenous leukemia, which was diagnosed in May 2010, the complaint says.

Wells claims his disease has caused him to incur medical costs, to face a shortened life expectancy and to sustain mental anguish. He also has missed a substantial amount of work, causing his career to be severely damaged, according to the complaint.

Wells alleges negligence against the defendants, saying they included benzene in their products even though it was a known carcinogen, failed to sufficiently test the effects of benzene on humans living in close proximity to plants and failed to alert him and other residents of air and water contamination.

Wells also alleges willful and wanton conduct against the defendants, saying they released toxic chemicals into the air without attempting to clean them up, minimized and hid the dangers of benzene exposure despite their knowledge of the chemicals and committed numerous environmental violations.

In his two-count suit, Wells seeks a judgment of more than $100,000, plus costs and other relief the court deems just.

Christopher W. Dysart of The Dysart Law Firm in Chesterfield and Kimberly M. Steuterman of Helfrey, Neiers and Jones in St. Louis will be representing him.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 11-L-713.

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