New benzene suit names Shell, BP and others

By Kelly Holleran | Oct 13, 2011


A man claims he developed leukemia after being exposed to benzene while growing up near a Shell Oil plant.

Jack Brown filed a lawsuit Oct. 4 in Madison County Circuit Court against Shell Oil Company, BP Products North America, ConocoPhillips Company, WRB Refining and URS Corporation.

In his complaint, Brown claims he grew up in a home at 290 South 10th St. 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 today and worked as a mechanic and bus driver for the Roxana School District from 1992 through today at a building close to Wood River facilities owned by Shell and BP.

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.

Because of his exposure, Brown developed acute lymphocytic leukemia, the complaint says. Brown was diagnosed with the cancer in September 1997, the suit states.

Brown claims his disease has caused him to incur medical costs, to face a shortened life expectancy and to sustain mental anguish. He also has missed a substantial amount of work, causing his career to be severely damaged, according to the complaint.

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.

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

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