Benzene suit claims exposure led to man's death

An East Alton woman, special administrator of the estate of Derrick Dean Coffman, is blaming Wood River area refineries for Coffman’s fatal exposure to benzene.

Lisa Trumble filed a lawsuit Dec. 26 against Shell Oil Company, BP Products North America, ConocoPhillips Company, WRB Refining and URS Corporation in Madison County Circuit Court.

She claims Coffman’s acute myelogenous leukemia was caused by their negligence.

“As a direct and proximate result of the willful, wanton and reckless conduct of defendants, Mr. Coffman has incurred medical bills, pain and suffering, a shortened life, mental anguish and death,” the lawsuit states.

In the complaint, Trumble claims Coffman lived in Roxana from 1997-1999 and lived in Wood River from 1999-2004.

“While Mr. Coffman resided, stayed and/or went to school near the Wood River Facilities, Mr. Coffman was exposed to and inhaled, ingested or otherwise absorbed benzene, which was emitted, leaked, dumped and otherwise discharged into the air and surface/ground water by defendants,” the lawsuit states.

Trumble accuses the defendants of breaching their duty and failing to exercise ordinary care. She claims the companies included benzene in their products and processes, though the public could inhale or absorb the carcinogen.

She accuses the defendants of failing to test, monitor or research the health effects of benzene and benzene-containing products or processes on residents living or going to school in close proximity to where benzene was being used.

In the lawsuit, Trumble claims defendants Shell, BP and ConocoPhillips agreed to suppress knowledge of the hazards of benzene, benzene production, storage and transportation and benzene-containing materials and products.

As a result of the exposure, Coffman was compelled to expend and become liable for large sums of monies for hospital, medical and other health care services for the treatment of his benzene-related disease and conditions and to alleviate the pain, suffering and mental anguish and physical disability caused by his injury, the lawsuit stated.

Trumble is represented by Mark Goldenberg and Holly Reese of Goldenberg, Heller, Antognoli & Rowland in Edwardsville; Philip Graham and Kimberly Steuterman of Helfrey, Neiers & Jones in St. Louis; and Christopher Dysart of the Dysart Law Firm in Chesterfield.

The case is assigned to Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis.

Madison County Case number 12-L-2083.

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