A former railway worker and his wife have filed a suit against BNSF Railway Company, claiming the man was diagnosed with lung cancer and the woman was diagnosed with asbestosis as a result of the man's work.

Michael Poninski claims he was diagnosed with various respiratory-related illnesses and lung cancer in 2007, according to a lawsuit filed Sept. 30 in Madison County Circuit Court.

Madonna Sue Poninski claims she was diagnosed with asbestosis this year.

The Poninskis claim Michael worked from 1971 until 1999 as a conductor, switchman and brakeman for BNSF Railway Company, according to the lawsuit.

He claims that throughout his job he worked close to toxic and hazardous materials and substances, including asbestos, diesel and exhaust fumes, excessive dust, silica dust particles, chemical compounds and fumes, paints, paint sprays, solvents, cleaners, degreasers and industrial soaps, which is how he contracted the disease.

Madonna claims she contracted the disease through regular exposure to asbestos when she washed Michael's work clothes.

They claim BNSF was negligent because it failed to provide Michael with a reasonably safe place to work, failed to provide him with safe respiratory devices, failed to warn him of the dangers of working around the chemicals and failed to provide for the chemicals' safe removal.

They also claim the company failed to adapt and place appropriate work area monitoring devices to track hazardous substances and assigned Michael work tasks in an area where he was repeatedly exposed to hazardous chemicals.

Michael alleges the asbestos-related disease caused him considerable pain and suffering.

The couple has also become responsible for medical costs, the Poninskis claim in the lawsuit.

Michael has experienced loss of a normal life, disability and disfigurement from surgeries addressing his condition, the suit states.

Madonna has acquired a specific and continuing fear of contracting cancer and endured the loss of a normal life, according to the complaint.

In the two-count lawsuit, the Poninskis seek sums in excess of the minimum jurisdictional amount, costs and for other relief the court deems just.

They are represented by Paul W. Johnsnon of Kujawski and Associates in O'Fallon.

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