Arizona couple files Texas suit for benzene exposure at Illinois work sites

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Oct. 28, 2008, 7:25am

MARSHALL -- Working for 17 years as a mechanic and maintenance worker, Brian Foray claims he was exposed to dangerous levels of benzene. Twelve years since his alleged exposure, Foray was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome.

Alleging the illness was caused by negligence, Arizona residents Brian and Francesca Foray filed suit against Safety-Kleen Systems Inc. on Oct. 24 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

Safety-Kleen is a Wisconsin corporation headquartered in Plano, Texas.

Benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid that ranks among the top 20 chemicals produced in the United States and is considered a human carcinogen. Widely used, benzene can be found in cigarette smoke, gasoline additives or solvents.

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."

Foray worked from 1979 to 1996 as a mechanic and maintenance worker, cleaning parts and components of heavy equipment at various landfill sites for his employer, John Sexton Contractors Co., in the greater-Chicago, Ill., area.

The complaint states that the defendant Safety-Kleen manufactured and sold a parts washer and the parts washing solvent, which were used to degrease and clean metal parts.

Foray states the defendant is negligent because its product was dangerous by producing aerosols and vapors of the benzene-containing solvent, causing the user to be splashed by or dermally exposed to benzene and further allows exposure by reintroducing benzene into solvent based automotive fluids.

Further, Foray says the defendant was negligent for failing to adequately warn of the dangerous associated with the parts washer and the associated harm of benzene exposure. Other causes of action include strict liability of defective product and warning, negligent failure to warn.

Alleging gross negligence and seeking punitive damages, the complaint states, "defendant had actual awareness of the extreme degree of risk associated with exposure to Safety-Kleen solvent and use of the parts washer, Raffinate, and Liquid Wrench, and nevertheless proceeded with conscience indifference to the rights, safety, and welfare of Brian Foray by failing to minimize or eliminate these risks."

Foray and his wife are also seeking damages for medical expenses, physical pain and suffering, loss of earnings, and loss of consortium, companionship, society love, affections, support, and care.

Dallas attorney Keith E. Patton of the law firm Schmidi and Clark is representing the plaintiff.

U.S. District Judge T. John Ward is assigned to the litigation.

Case No 2:08cv00412

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