Suit claims asbestos caused refinery worker's mesothelioma, death

David Yates Nov. 23, 2009, 6:32am

Keith Hyde

A widow has filed suit against Chevron USA, alleging the oil giant negligently exposed her late husband, Billy Cunningham, to asbestos and inflicted him with mesothelioma.

Provost Umphrey attorney Keith Hyde filed the personal injury lawsuit on Betty Lou's behalf in Jefferson County District Court on Nov. 20.

"During Cunningham's employment with Gulf Oil, he used and was exposed to toxic materials including asbestos dust and/or fibers," the suit said. "As a result of such exposure, he developed an asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma, for which he died a painful and terrible death on Feb. 11, 2009."

The suit alleges that the oil conglomerate knew for decades that asbestos-containing products could cause the disease asbestosis and other asbestos-related cancers but still allowed its employees to work with and around the naturally occurring mineral.

"The defendant acted with malice...and gross neglect for exposing Cunningham to asbestos," the suit states.

"The defendant failed to timely and adequately warn workers of the dangers of asbestos...and failed to take the necessary engineering, safety, industrial hygiene and other precautions and provide adequate warning and training to ensure that the deceased was not exposed to the asbestos-containing products."

Asbestos, an excellent fire retardant, was used for centuries in the construction of buildings.

The plaintiff is suing for exemplary damages and seeks "to recover from the defendant an amount in excess of the jurisdictional limits of this Court.

"Further, plaintiff seeks a claim for prejudgment interest for all elements allowed them," the suit says.

Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd Judicial District, will preside over the case.

Case No. E185-373

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