Defendants in benzene suit seek change of venue

David Yates Jul. 6, 2009, 9:54am

Numerous corporate defendants trapped in a benzene suit blaming 67 companies for the late Cloyce Johnson's leukemia and death are seeking to transfer the case to Harris County.

A hearing on the issue was slated for July 6 in Judge Bob Wortham's 58th District Court but was abruptly reset and slated for sometime in August.

A sudden scheduling conflict caused the case to be reset and more defendants may join the transfer venue list, a court employee told the Record.

Court records show that the list of defendants seeking a transfer includes, Union Carbide, Huntsman Petrochemical, Texaco Refining BASF, NRG Energy, ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical, Foster Wheeler USA, and Marathon Oil.

Court records show that several transfer hearings that have been scheduled in the past were cancelled and reset for future dates.

The defendant's argue in their motions to transfer that the plaintiffs have "failed to present sufficient factual allegations in their petition to support venue in Jefferson County."

Around a dozen of the suit's defendants have been non-suited by the plaintiff, court papers show.

As the Record reported in early March, the family of Cloyce Johnson, a deceased Chambers County man, filed a lawsuit against 67 defendant corporations claiming their benefactor was exposed to benzene, which led to his death from acute myelogenous leukemia.

Vickie and Michael Johnson say Cloyce Johnson from the disease March 2, 2007, according to a lawsuit filed Feb. 27 in Jefferson County District Court.

Vickie and Michael say their husband and father worked from 1968 until 2007 as a pipefitter, pipefitter welder, boilermaker and mechanical supervisor.

Defendants include ExxonMobil, Air Liquide, Atlantic Richfield, BASF, BP Amaco, Dow Chemical, Foster Wheeler, Goodyear, KBR, Monsanto, S&B Engineers, Shell, Union Carbide, U.S. Steel, Valero and the Washington Group.

They allege the defendants were aware of chemical emissions, but still released the benzene in the air, knowing it could cause cancer.

According to the complaint, Johnson's disease was caused by his benzene exposure in the workplace.

The plaintiffs allege the benzene-related disease caused the family to incur substantial medical costs. Johnson also experienced great physical pain, mental anguish, physical impairment and disfigurement as a result of the disease, Vickie and Michael Johnson claim in the lawsuit.

Because of Johnson's death, Vickie and Michael Johnson have lost his care, maintenance, support, services, advice, counsel, reasonable contributions, companionship, society and consortium and have suffered mental anguish, according to the complaint.

They also lost Cloyce Johsnon's present value and his financial contributions.

In addition, Vickie Johnson incurred funeral and burial expenses, the suit states.

Vickie and Michael Johnson are seeking an unspecified sum, plus interest, costs and other relief to which they may be entitled.

They are represented by Tina H. Bradley of Brent Coon and Associates in Beaumont.

Case No. A183-400

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