Defense wants April benzene trial reset for June

David Yates Mar. 22, 2010, 9:19am

In a county known for doling out multi-million dollar verdicts against chemical companies, Jefferson County jurors may soon get another chance to decide a benzene case.

The trial of Carol Thompson vs. Univar USA is slated to begin April 6. However attorneys for Univar are asking Judge Bob Wortham to continue the case till June.

At Univar's request, a hearing was held on Monday, March 22, in Judge Bob Wortham's 58th District court. No decision was reached and another hearing has been slated for March 25.

Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd Judicial District, was originally assigned to the case, but the plaintiffs requested that case be transferred to Wortham's court so as to take advantage of an early April trial date, court papers say.

But court documents show that Judge Wortham had expressed some concern earlier this month, saying that "with all the hullabaloo going on" regarding new witnesses, the parties might be unprepared for their April setting.

According to Univar's motion for continuance, on March 5 plaintiff Carol Thompson, through her attorney, served an amended witness list which listed 29 new fact witnesses who had previously not been disclosed and who were identified as having knowledge of her late husband's work history.

As the Record reported in February 2008, John Thompson and his wife Carol filed suit against Chevron U.S.A. and eight other chemical companies in the Jefferson County District Court.

Now deceased, John Thompson had worked as an independent contractor for various local refineries during the 1960s and early 1970s.

His widow, Carol, claims he was negligently exposed to benzene - a chemical she alleges caused him to develop leukemia.

In the past six months, most of the defendants named in the suit have been non-suited by the plaintiff, including ExxonMobil, DuPont, Sherwin-Williams, Fisher Scientific, Chevron and Texaco, court records say.

Court documents show that "at various times over a (decade) John Thompson was employed by various independent contractor employers as a laborer ... upon the premises of the Defendants, (where he) was occupationally exposed to various toxic and carcinogenic chemicals benzene."

"Plaintiffs have been obligated to incur expenses amounting to a considerable amount of money for medical and hospitalization care and related expenses," the suit states.

Carol Thompson is suing for her husband's past and future medical expenses, lost wages, mental anguish, physical pain, disfigurement, loss of consortium and loss of household services.

She is represented by Provost Umphrey attorney Darren Brown.

Univar is represented by Robert Scott, an attorney for the Abrams, Scott & Bickley law firm.

Case No. E181-199

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