Three attorneys announce representation of Shell in Madison County benzene case

Christina Stueve Jan. 12, 2012, 4:59am




Richard Korn, Bart Sullivan and Ryan Mohr of Fox Galvin in St. Louis announced their representation of Shell Oil Co. on Jan. 9 in an East Alton man's benzene lawsuit.

John Disher filed suit Nov. 17 in Madison County Circuit Court against Shell, BP Products North America Inc., ConocoPhilips Co. and WRB Refining LLC.

Disher, who has lived in East Alton since 1983, claims he attended school in Roxana from third grade through high school, 1990-2000, near the Shell Oil and BP Products Wood River facilities.

He claims the facility, during the 1990s, leaked or released benzene and benzene-containing pollutants into the air and ground water of nearby neighborhoods and community. Benzene, a known carcinogen, has been linked to the cause of certain blood cancers, according to court records.

Furthermore, benzene is a natural constituent of crude oil, and is one of the most basic petrochemicals. Because it is a known carcinogen, its use as an additive in gasoline is now limited, but it is an important industrial solvent and precursor to basic industrial chemicals including drugs, plastics, synthetic rubber and dyes, according to Wikipedia.

Disher says he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in May 2009 and claims his exposure to benzene was the cause. He accuses Shell and BP Products of negligently releasing the chemical into the environment and claims the companies have a history of reckless conduct.

He seeks more than $50,000 in damages.

Shell Oil on Jan. 9 denied the plaintiff's alleged exposure to benzene through any products processed, handled, stored or manufactured by Shell.

Shell also says Disher's claims are barred due to his own negligence and that his recovery should be reduced by an amount proportionate to the degree of fault attributable to him. Disher's damages were caused by the acts of a party other than Shell over whom Shell had no control, it claims.

Disher's alleged injuries were the result of pre-existing conditions, unrelated to any product emitted from Shell's Wood River refinery, Shell claims.

It also claims it is not liable to the plaintiff, because it exercised diligence in complying with codes provided by the U.S. and Illinois.

Joseph Orlet, Adam Miller, and Jordan Ault represent BP Products North America.

BP also denied liability in its Jan. 5 answer to the complaint, saying the plaintiff's damages were not caused by contact with BPPNA-made products, and such conditions would have occurred whether or not the plaintiff had contact with any materials made by BPPNA.

Christopher Dysart and Kimberly Steuterman represent the plaintiff. They request a jury trial.

The case is one of several benzene lawsuits pending in Madison County.

Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge is assigned to the case.

The case is Madison County case number 11-L-1225.

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