Matoesian sends benzene case back to Callis for reassignment

Christina Stueve Mar. 22, 2012, 7:14am



Madison County Circuit Judge Andreas Matoesian on March 21 approved Defendant BP Products of North America's request for a substitution of judge in an ongoing benzene lawsuit.

Matoesian sent the case back to Chief Circuit Judge Ann Callis for reassignment.

Defendant BP Products of North America on March 16 also denied liability for damages in a Wood River woman's claim that she developed leukemia because of exposure to pollutants allegedly released by the town's oil refinery.

Janice K. Kalert filed a lawsuit Jan. 11 in Madison County Circuit Court against Shell Oil Company, BP Products and Conoco Phillips.

Joseph Orlet, Adam Miller and Jordan Ault of Husch Blackwell on March 16 entered appearances for BP Products.

BP Product claims the plaintiff's allegations are barred by her own negligence.

The company also states that the plaintiff's claims are barred by the plaintiff's failure to use reasonable care to minimize damages. And it states that Kalert's alleged injuries were caused by entities other than BPPNA.

Kalert says she lived on Walnut Street in Roxana from 1994 through 2003 and on Picket Avenue in Wood River from 2003 until now. She claims both homes are near the defendants' oil refinery known as the Wood River Facility.

Kalert alleges the refinery handled and processed the chemical benzene and benzene-containing products during the time she lived nearby and that the oil companies allowed thousands of pounds of benzene and benzene-containing pollutants to be released into the air and ground water of the refinery's adjoining neighborhoods. According to studies cited in the complaint, benzene has been linked to certain blood cancers, like acute myelogenous leukemia. Kalert says she was diagnosed with the disease in March 2011.

Kalert accuses the defendants of negligence, claiming the companies knowingly released a toxic chemical into the environment. She says Shell Oil and ConocoPhillips are liable for her cancer diagnosis. She seeks more than $100,000 in damages for medical expenses and court fees.

Kalert is represented by attorneys Thomas E. Schwartz and Justin D. Guerra of St. Louis. They ask for a jury trial.

Richard Korn, Bart Sullivan and Michael Donelson of Fox Galvin are the attorneys for co-defendant Shell Oil Company.

Gregg Kinney and Larry Hepler are the attorneys for co-defendant ConocoPhillips Company.

Madison County Circuit Court Case No. 12-L-45

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