4 families sue 78 companies over asbestos exposure

The surviving family members of four deceased refinery workers have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against 78 companies which they allege exposed the workers to asbestos and led to their death from asbestos-related disease.

The beneficiaries of Betty Laverne, Jimmie Ray Sonnier, William Harold Tinney and Perkins Young filed the suit against E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and 77 other companies on Sept. 2 in Jefferson County District Court.

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs worked as craftsmen and construction tradesmen at the refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities in Jefferson, Orange and Harris counties.

While working for the defendants, the plaintiffs were exposed to asbestos through thermal and electrical insulation products, flooring materials, textiles, gaskets, wicking and packing, mastics, cement products, coatings and other uses of asbestos. The plaintiffs suffered "serious and debilitating injuries" as a result of the exposure, the suit claims.

The 78 defendants are divided into "premises defendants" which are the refineries, chemical plants and shipyards; "product defendants" that make the asbestos containing products; and "distributor defendants" that sold or supplied the products.

Defendants' negligent acts include failure to exercise reasonable care to protect the plaintiffs from dangers and unreasonable risks of harm known to exist.

"Even after defendants new the truth about the propensity of asbestos they remained mute when by reasonable effort they could have prevented the risk of cancer and asbestosis from afflicting the Plaintiffs," the suit alleges.

Plaintiffs assert a claim based on strict products liability that defendants' products were defective by a design, material or marketing defect.

Defendants' actions amount to fraud, malice and/or gross negligence, the plaintiffs claim, making them entitled to exemplary damages.

The defendants named in the suit are 4520 Corp., A.W. Chesterton Co., Air Liquide America, American Petroleum Institute, American Standard, Ametek, AMF Inc., Aqua-Chem, Babcock Borsig Power, BASF Corp., Bechtel Construction, Bechtel Corp., Bechtel Group, Bechtel Power, BP Amoco Chemical Co., BP Corp. NA, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, Bridgestone Americas Inc., Bryan Steam, Chevron Phillips, Chevron USA, Coen Co., Conoco Phillips, Crane Co., Delta Industrial, Dow Chemical, E.I. DuPont de Nemours, Entergy Texas, Ethyl Corp., ExxonMobil Corp. and ExxonMobil Oil Corp.

Also FBCO Inc., Firestone Diversified Products, Fluor Corp., Fluor Enterprises, Foster Wheeler Energy Corp., General Refractories Co., Global Remediation, Greene Tweed and Co., Grefco Inc., HB Zachary (Texas), HB Zachary Co., Henry Vogt Machine Co., Holman Boiler Works, Huntsman Petrochemical, IMO Industries, Jason Inc., Johnston Boiler, Kvaerner US Inc ., Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., Mine Safety Appliances, Minstar Inc., Mitternight Boiler Works, Monsanto Co., Mundy Industrial Maintenance, Natkin & Co. and Nooter Corp.

And Owens-Illinois, Parsons Infrastructure and Technology, Resco Holdings, Santa Fe Braun Inc., Sepco Corp., Sequoia Ventures, Shell Oil Co., Sinclair Oil Corp., Sunoco Inc., Superior Boiler Works, Total Petrochemicals USA, Trinity Construction, Triplex Inc., U.S. Steel Corp., URS Energy & Construction, Velsicol Chemical, Viacom, W.S. Bellows Construction, Wheelerbrator Technologies, Worley Parsons Group and Zurn Industries.

Chris Portner of Reaud, Morgan & Quinn LLP in Beaumont is representing the plaintiffs.

The case has been assigned to Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court.

Case No. E187-927

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