Benzene suit blames six companies for man's leukemia

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Dec. 10, 2008, 2:29pm

Keith Hyde

GALVESTON – A Brazoria County couple is suing a group of petrochemical companies, alleging the man's prolonged exposure to benzene was the cause of his leukemia.

Jan and James Callihan filed suit against Univar USA, Atlantic Richfield Company, BP, Shell Chemical LP, the Sherwin-Williams Company, and the Dow Chemical Company in Galveston County District Court on Dec. 8.

The Callihans, who are represented by Beaumont attorney J. Keith Hyde of Provost Umphrey, allege James Callihan contracted a lethal form of leukemia as a result of his approximately 20 years of work with benzene-related products dating back to the 1960s.

"The plaintiffs would show that the negligence made the basis of this lawsuit, as committed by the defendants, was of such a nature so as to constitute gross negligence as that term is applied and interpreted by the State of Texas," the suit says.

Documents explain that James Callihan handled paint products manufactured, distributed, and sold by Sherwin-Williams that reportedly contained benzene as well as commercial benzene from the five other defendants during his stint as a journeyman laborer, adding the plaintiff was close enough to inhale the substance's loose particles.

"This benzene was in a defective condition, unreasonably dangerous when sold by defendants," they say. "Said defective, unreasonably dangerous condition was a producing cause of injuries made the basis of this suit."

The Callihans argue the benzene and related materials caused James Callihan permanent and disabling injuries, which ultimately translated into acute myelogenous leukemia.

"Defendants through their various agents, employees, and representatives were negligent in failing to properly manufacture and in failing to warn plaintiff James Callihan and those situated of the adverse effects of benzene," the suit says.

It asserts James Callihan's condition is likely to become terminal as time goes on.

Consequently, the plaintiffs seek damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment, lost wages, disfigurement, and medical expenses.

Jan Callihan is named a plaintiff because she claims to have suffered loss of consortium.

"The conduct of the defendants indicates a conscious disregard for the health, welfare, and safety of others and has resulted in untold human suffering, needlessly sacrificed lives, and great economic loss in the form of expensive health care," the suit says.

The Callihans also requested for a jury trial.

Galveston County 56th District Court Judge Lonnie Cox is presiding over the case.

Case No. 08CV1210

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