Judge denies continuance, benzene trial scheduled

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Sep. 11, 2007, 7:34am

Michael Schmidt

MARSHALL -- After 27 years of working as a pressman, Charles Wilson claims he developed myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) from exposure to benzene. Wilson's allegations will be heard by a jury on Nov. 13, just 16 months after initiating the product liability suit.

Representing Charles Wilson and his wife Laura, are attorneys Collen Clark, Michael Schmidt, and Keith Patton from the Dallas law firm of Schmidt and Clark and attorneys F. Durham III and Kirk Pittard from the Dallas law firm of Durham and Pittard.

The suit filed in July 2006 in the Marshall Court of the Eastern District of Texas, states Wilson was exposed to benzene through "blanket washes, press washes, varnish removers, plate clearness, roller washes, and other solvents and chemicals." Defendants named in the original petition include Rycoline Products, Rogersol, Host-man Steinberg, I.C. Compound Company, Ashland, Allied Photo Offset Supply Corporation, Day International and Lastra America Corporation.

The National Cancer Institute describes myelodysplastic syndrome as "a group of diseases in which bone marrow does not make enough healthy blood cells." The MDS foundation states "MDS is a rare disease, whose incidence is four per 100,000."

According to court records, the plaintiff states that his illness was caused by defendants' negligence. Wilson says the defendants knew the products were "carcinogenic, deleterious, and highly harmful" but failed to warn, provide knowledge or precautions regarding the "highly harmful substances." He also alleges that defendants are responsible for strict liability, gross negligence and breach of warranty.

Wilson seeks punitive and exemplary damages for medical expenses, physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment, disfigurement, loss of earnings, and loss of consortium, companionship and society.

The plaintiff has requested a jury trial. Judge Leonard Davis will preside but has referred the pre-trial proceedings to Magistrate Judge Charles Everingham.

Responding to the plaintiffs' complaint in September 2006, Rycoline Products, Inc. denied all allegations and asserts that Wilson's illness was caused by negligence of others. Rycoline Products develops and provides products such as printing blankets, fountain solutions, silicone and silicone replacement parts.

Continuing its defense, Rycoline said the laintiff's injury was caused by "unintended, unexpected and/or abnormal use or misuse" of any Rycoline products. Further, Rycoline states Wilson's employer, Frankston Packaging Company, had knowledge of the risks and hazards in Wilson's workplace.

Although Wilson did not sue his former employer, on May 1 the defendants filed a third-party company against Frankston Packaging (FBOT), a dissolved corporation.

At a hearing on July 27, FPBOT's attorney filed an undisclosed settlement agreement, which is pending judicial approval.

The complaints against defendants I.C. Compound, Hostman-Steinberg, Lastra America Corporation and Allied Photo Offset Supply Corporation have been dismissed with prejudice with each party paying its own costs.

As the trial date nears, defendants Ashland and Day International filed a motion for a continuance to conduct additional discovery and depose expert witnesses. Everingham denied the motion but allowed an amended scheduling order that will give the defendants more time.

The trial date remains firm for Nov. 13.

Case No.: 2:06cv00286

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