Suit claims man developed cancer after benzene exposure at local plants

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Feb. 4, 2009, 7:00am

GALVESTON � A Texas City couple is suing BP and several other companies after the husband reportedly contracted a potentially fatal form of cancer allegedly due to benzene exposure.

Charles and Bessie Mae Stewart's lawsuit, which was filed by Houston attorney Keith E. Patton in Galveston County District Court on Jan. 29, alleges that 30 years of working around benzene gave Charles Stewart chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Shell, Texaco, and Marathon join BP as defendants.

Charles Stewart worked for BP at the Amoco Refinery in Texas City from 1951 to 1982.

The suit says he was exposed to the solvents and chemicals manufactured, utilized, and supplied by the defendants.

"(Charles) Stewart's exposures to the solvents and chemicals were a legal cause of his developing chronic lymphocytic leukemia," it states.

Doctors diagnosed Charles Stewart with the illness in May 2006.

The suit lists six counts of wrongdoing against the defendants, including but not limited to negligence, strict product liability, breach of warranty, misrepresentation, gross negligence, and malice.

"Each of the BP and Amoco entities named defendants herein are liable in its capacities as a premises owner, distributor, operator, supplier and transporter of benzene and other hazardous solvents and chemicals, and as such retained the right to control, exercise control and duty to warn (Charles) Stewart," it says.

The complaint argues the defendants bore knowledge of "the dangers associated with exposures to the hazardous solvents and chemicals at the premises where (Charles) Stewart worked."

"(The) defendants failed to warn employees, invitees, and contractors of the dangers associated with occupational exposure to these solvents and chemicals and required workers such as (Charles) Stewart to work with or in proximity to hazardous substances without the necessary precautions to avoid dangerous exposures to these solvents and chemicals," the original petition says.

The Stewarts invoke the discovery rule, asserting Charles Stewart "did not learn the nature of the cause of the subject injuries or that such injuries were work related until less than two years prior to the filing of the plaintiffs' causes of action."

They request a trial by jury in addition to numerous damages.

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

Case No. 09CV0120

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