A former Navy veteran and refinery worker, Louisiana-resident Merlin Durousseau died of renal failure last December. At the request of Provost Umphrey attorney Bryan Blevins, the Texas Occupational Medicine Institute reviewed Durousseau's medical record and concluded he died of asbestos induced mesothelioma.
The Texas Occupational Medicine Institute routinely reviews cases submitted by the Provost Umphrey law firm.
Through asbestos attorney Blevins, Durousseau's family filed suit against the A.O. Smith Corporation and 52 other companies with the Jefferson County District Court on Oct. 3, claiming the defendants knowingly and maliciously manufactured and distributed asbestos-containing products.
Although Durousseau spent most of his working life in Louisiana, the suit says Jefferson County has jurisdiction because "decedent resided in Texas at the time of the cause of action."
According to Texas Occupational Medicine Institute (TOMI) documents attached to the suit, Durousseau, a former smoker, worked at the as a laborer at the Citgo refinery in Louisiana for 25 years. He also worked construction for two years and served in the Navy for six years.
TOMI physician Dr. Steven Haber wrote, "In my opinion, Mr. Durousseau developed and died from malignant peritoneal mesothelioma. Based upon his years in the Navy and his work at a refinery, he would likely be at risk for asbestos exposure. Depending upon his work in construction he may have also had asbestos exposures there as well.
"Assuming that Mr. Durousseau had asbestos exposures in the l970s and l980s, it is my opinion that exposure to asbestos was a cause of his malignant mesothelioma. That he died from this cancer, it is my opinion is that his death is attributable to asbestos. Based upon my review of his records, Mr. Durousseau had pain and suffering related to his malignant mesothelioma. It is also my opinion that his medical care was reasonable and medically necessary. In my opinion, Mr. Durousseau's malignant mesothelioma is not attributable to tobacco."
The plaintiffs' original petition says the 50 plus defendants entangled in his lawsuit were negligent for failing to adequately test their asbestos-laced products before flooding the market with dangerous goods and warn the consumer of the dangers of asbestos exposure.
Some of the defendants listed in the suit include aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, Viacom and iron supplier Zurn Industries.
In addition, the petition faults Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Corp. (3M Corporation) and American Optical Corp. for producing defective masks that failed to "provide respiratory protection."
According to the suit, "Decedent was engaged in the course of his employment as an operator, and in other various roles and capacities where he was required to work with, and/or around asbestos and asbestos containing products and materials, which caused him to suffer from asbestos-related diseases and other industrial dust diseases caused by breathing the asbestos-containing products."
The plaintiffs are suing for wrongful death and exemplary damages, plus physical pain and suffering in the past and future, mental anguish in the past and future, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, disfigurement in the past and future, physical impairment in the past and future, and past and future medical expenses.
Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd Judicial District, has been assigned to the case.
Case No. E180-461