Multi-Million Dollar Verdict for Man Who Suffered Benzene Exposure

The claimant in a case against a US-based integrated energy company and an important petroleum explorer and marketer was awarded $17.5 million after the jury decided that he suffered substantial benzene exposure while working for the two companies.

Our Chicago personal injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm warn the public about the dangers of benzene exposure. A person is exposed to benzene either when he uses goods that contain the chemical compound or when he works with the compound. Benzene exposure can cause serious health problems such as anemia, kidney cancer and leukemia.

The plaintiff in the benzene exposure case was a former petroleum inspector who worked upon barges and ships in the U.S. Exposure to hazardous benzene caused him to develop acute myelogenous leukemia when he was 48 years old. After his chemotherapy treatments, he had considerable medical bills to pay and could not continue working at his preferred profession.

The jury recognized that the defendant oil companies had to be penalized for consciously exposing the man to chemicals.

This year, there was another case pertaining to benzene exposure. A village in Illinois alleged that it lost out on considerable tax profit and that the health of its residents was endangered after a number of oil refineries supposedly contaminated the town’s water and property. The village filed a lawsuit against Shell Oil Company and five other companies. The defendants also faced an increasing number of personal injury lawsuits representing individuals who alleged that benzene exposure was responsible for their leukemia.

The complaint claimed that the oil refineries which existed since 1917 and were refining oil since 1918, started accidentally releasing huge amounts of benzene, sulfur dioxide, methyl mercaptan and hydrogen sulfide from the 1980s onwards. The pollutants were released either into the air or the ground during the various spills.

The village alleged that its residents’ exposure to the various contaminants may have resulted in them developing health problems such as cancer. The land value also plummeted because of this issue.

The seriousness of the situation is clear from the claim that soil vapor sampling at a particular area identified benzene levels that were over 14,000 times the permissible limit. An engineering firm detected the presence of two groundwater plumes and unfortunately those plumes too were found to be contaminated with benzene.

Toxic chemicals such as benzene also entered some surface waters by way of a running water drainage ditch. In addition, it was suspected that two lakes that were home to different kinds of wildlife and also used for fishing and recreation were contaminated.

The village claimed unjust enrichment, private and public nuisance and trespass against the defendants. It sought a declaratory verdict for the expenses pertaining to removal of the pollutants from the water. It also sought a verdict exceeding $200,000, attorneys’ fees, expenses to reduce harm to public health and other kinds of relief.

The Safe Drinking Water Act passed by Congress in 1974 calls for the EPA (Environmental protection Agency) to find out safe levels of chemicals in drinking water, which do or may lead to health problems. These levels which are based only on possible exposure and health hazards are called Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLG) and are non-enforceable. The MCLG for benzene is fixed at zero. On the basis of this MCLG, the EPA fixed an enforceable level called a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL).

MCLs are fixed in such a way as to be as near to the MCLGs as possible. This is done taking into account the capacity for public water systems to identify and get rid of contaminants using appropriate treatment technologies. The EPA fixed the MCL at 5 parts per billion (ppb). All community water supplies should adhere to the pertinent regulations to make sure that these standards are met.

If you or a loved one developed a serious disease or health problem from benzene exposure, contact a benzene attorney in order to protect your legal rights and secure maximum compensation for your suffering.

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