Workers seek $500 million over benzene vapor release at Texas City refinery

GALVESTON - A Houston law firm has filed suit against BP Products North America Inc. and Pasadena Tank Corp. on behalf of eight contract workers who claim to have been exposed to "extremely high levels of benzene," recent court documents say.

The Buzbee Law Firm argues that the individuals were injured and had their long-term health put in jeopardy after an alleged incident with a damaged pipe at BP's Texas City refinery on Aug. 19, 2009.

In the suit filed Jan. 13 in Galveston County Court No. 1, the plaintiffs seek $500 million in damages including but not limited to pain and suffering and mental anguish.

According to the original petition, the plaintiffs were working when a vapor and strong odor wafted in and completely enveloped their work area.

They attempted to pinpoint the source of the vapor, which was found to be a broken pipe spewing chemicals.

"The plaintiffs quickly evacuated the area," the suit says. "Upon experiencing various symptoms, the plaintiffs sought medical treatment."

The laborers were rushed to the hospital where they learned they had been exposed to benzene the suit states.

The plaintiffs claim BP subsequently attempted to downplay the emission, the suit argues.

"Despite the plaintiffs reporting the actual volume of benzene that was spilled, BP, as has been its custom, minimized the leak and release, and its effects in both its internal documentation, as well as the documentation with the authorities," it says.

The incident added to BP's "long and tortured history of failure in the area of process safety management," the suit alleges, citing the March 2005 explosions, numerous violations of state and federal safety regulations and other offenses.

The plaintiffs request a jury trial.

Galveston County Court No. 1 Judge Mary Nell Crapitto is presiding over the case.

Cause No. 62,172

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