Shell answers Madison County benzene lawsuit

Ann Maher Nov. 15, 2011, 10:44am


Shell Oil Co. answered a Madison County benzene lawsuit by denying it is responsible for the plaintiff's damages.

Jack Brown filed suit last month against Shell, BP Products North America, ConocoPhillips Company, WRB Refining and URS Corporation, claiming he developed acute lymphocytic leukemia, after decades of exposure to benzene.

Brown, who was diagnosed with the cancer in September 1997, claims he grew up in a home in Wood River where he lived and "spent a considerable amount of time" from 1968 through 1986.

He also lived at residences in Roxana and Wood River from 1991 until the time suit was filed and worked as a mechanic and bus driver for the Roxana School District from 1992 until present time at a building close to Wood River facilities owned by Shell and BP, his complaint states.

"Plaintiff's damages were caused solely by the acts and/or omissions of a party or parties other than Shell over whom Shell had no control," states, in part, Shell's affirmative defense filed Oct. 31.

"Plaintiff's alleged injuries and damages were the result of preexisting or subsequent conditions which are unrelated to any product or material emitted, leaked, spilled, dumped or otherwise discharged by Shell from Shell's Wood River Refinery."

Shell, represented by Richard Korn of Fox Galvin in St. Louis, also states that if it is found liable "it is entitled to indemnity, contribution and/or set-off from those persons or entities whose fault caused or contributed to cause the damages for which recovery is sought..."

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 Brown to be exposed to the pollutant, the suit states.

Brown 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 her and other residents of air and water contamination.

Brown 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, Brown 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.

The lawsuit is one of a number of benzene-related lawsuits filed this year in Madison County.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 11-L-1008.

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