Suit claims naphthalene exposure caused heart, lung problems

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Apr. 27, 2011, 11:58am

GALVESTON � A Galveston County man alleges he was exposed to a chemical leak while working as a security guard at a Texas City petrochemical plant almost two years ago, recent court documents say.

In a lawsuit filed against Valero Refining-Texas LP, Marathon Petroleum Co. L.P. and Texas-New Mexico Power Co. on April 11 in Galveston County District Court, Karon Johnson claims he had an acute exposure to naphthalene on June 16, 2009.

Johnson patrolled the Marathon refinery at the time of the alleged leak. He says the chemicals wafted from the nearby Valero facility, according to the lawsuit.

The next day, the plaintiff reported to his employer that he was feeling limp, nauseous, fatigued, achy and seeing blood in his urine, the suit says.

According to the original complaint, Johnson claims he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy -- a weakening and enlargement of the heart -- and chemical pneumonitis -- a lung inflammation caused by inhaling irritants -- citing the Valero release as "the legal cause of his injuries."

The suit faults Valero for failing to operate its refinery in a safe manner in compliance with the law, while Marathon is blamed for not preventing workplace hazards and TNMP is accused of not running their company safely.

"The defendants ignored the known obvious risks of harm, damages and losses that would result from an extended exposure to naphthalene-containing chemicals," the original petition says.

Consequently, Johnson sues for compensatory and exemplary damages. He also seeks a jury trial.

R.G. Taylor II & Associates is representing the plaintiff, and Galveston County 56th District Court Judge Lonnie Cox is presiding over the case.

Case No. 11-cv-0618

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