Pharmaceutical giant Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. is seeking to be dismissed from a Madison County benzene lawsuit it was named in last November.

On Jan. 9, the company, which produces gene-based medicines, filed a motion to dismiss and a motion for a more definite statement in a lawsuit filed by a Mississippi pipefitter.

Ricky and Jerry Marshall sued on Nov. 14 claiming Ricky Marshall was exposed to benzene while working from 1970 until 2008.

Due to that exposure, Marshall claims he was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia on Sept. 5, 2011. He claims he has incurred medical costs and has sustained physical pain and disability. He also claims he missed work, which hurt his career.

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.

Marshall alleges the defendants, including Merck Sharp & Dohme, included benzene in their products, failed to sufficiently test the effects of benzene and failed to warn anyone working near the product of its dangers.

The Marshalls are seeking damages of more than $50,000.

The suit also names 52 other defendants.

Merck Sharp & Dohme has responded by saying Marshall has not identified a product it made that he would have been exposed to.

The Marshalls, the company says, made "bare bones allegations" with no basis.

The plaintiffs' allegations fall short of what is required to plead a product liability action in Illinois, it says.

Rebecca Jackson and Travis Campbell from Bryan Cave in St. Louis represent Merck Sharp & Dohme Corporation.

Richard L. Saville Jr., Ethan A. Flint, Andrew J. Balcer, Joseph Whyte, Jill Price and Eric Jackstadt of Saville and Flint in Glen Carbon represent the plaintiffs.

The case is assigned to Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth.

It is one of several benzene lawsuits pending in Madison County.

Madison Case number 11-L-1211.

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