Oklahoma couple files benzene lawsuit in Jefferson County

David Yates Aug. 14, 2007, 8:33am

Sooner Nation has never cared too much for Texas football, but at least two Oklahoma residents are fans of the Lone Star State's court system.

Gregory and Kellie McFarland are suing the BP Amoco Corp., along with 38 other oil companies, for manufacturing and distributing benzene and other toxic chemicals to the unaware public – conspiring to purposely inflict Gregory with an "illness."

The couple filed their personal injury lawsuit with the Jefferson County District Court on Aug. 13.

According to the plaintiffs' original petition, from 1960 to 2005, Greg McFarland was exposed to "dangerous levels of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals," including benzene-containing products and other "toxic" solvents.

"McFarland's exposures to these toxic and carcinogenic chemicals and substances, distributed, marketed, and/or manufactured by defendants…was a legal cause of his illness," the suit said, adding that the defendants were aware of the dangers associated with benzene exposure.

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) defines benzene is an aromatic hydrocarbon that is produced by the burning of natural products.

"It is a component of products derived from coal and petroleum and is found in gasoline and other fuels," the OSHA Web site said. "Benzene is used in the manufacture of plastics, detergents, pesticides, and other chemicals. Research has shown benzene to be a carcinogen (cancer-causing). With exposures from less than five years to more than 30 years, individuals have developed, and died from, leukemia."

Along with BP, the six-count suit names oil conglomerates such as Texaco, Shell and Motiva as defendants, and faults all 39 defendants with negligence, strict liability, premise liability, breach of warranty, misrepresentation and conspiracy and gross negligence.

The suit does not give details concerning McFarland's past employment, but does ask the suit's presiding judge, 60th District Judge Gary Sanderson, to prohibit the suit from being removed from his court and placed in federal court.

"Removal is improper," the suit said. "The federal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over this action."

The plaintiffs are suing for past and future mental anguish, physical impairment and disfigurement, pain and medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, plus recovery of pre and post-judgment interest.

Furthermore, the plaintiffs are also suing for loss of support, companionship and consortium, and are also seeking punitive and exemplary damages to "punish the defendants," the suit said.

The couple is demanding a trial by jury and is represented by attorney Justin Shrader of the Shrader & Associates law firm.

Case No. B179-807

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