Former Chevron employee suing for benzene exposure

By David Yates | Apr 24, 2007

Keith Hyde

Senior citizens Gary and Fern Congram are suing Chevron U.S.A and numerous other petrochemical companies for exposing Gary, Fern's husband, to benzene.

Gary Congram worked as an engineer for various oil contractors for 43 years.

According to the plaintiffs' petition filed on April 23 with the Jefferson County District Court, the defendants negligently exposed Gary to benzene and other toxic substances associated with the petroleum industry during his four-decade career.

Benzene is a natural constituent of crude oil used as an additive in gasoline and is also an important industrial solvent and precursor in the production of drugs, plastics, synthetic rubber, and dyes.

"As a result of such exposure, Gary Congram developed myelodysplastic syndrome/acute myelogenous leukemia," the suit said. "Defendants were negligent in failing to warn (him) of the adverse health affects of these toxic and carcinogenic chemicals."

The suit goes on to list 10 counts of negligence, including failing to warn him of the risk, failing to eliminate the risk, failing to perform adequate medical monitoring of persons upon its premises and failing to implement benzene safety polices.

Gary Congram claims the 29 oil companies, such as Citgo, Texaco, Valero and BP, named in the suit possessed knowledge of the dangerous condition (cancerous benzene) but continued to expose laborers to the chemicals.

"Defendants were fully aware of their chemical emissions at their plants and the presence of chemicals…knowing that such containments would be inhaled or absorbed," the suit said. "Defendants knew their chemicals have the potential for causing cancer and other chronic diseases."

The plaintiffs are suing for physical pain and suffering in the past and future, mental anguish in the past and future, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, physical impairment in the past and future, and past and future medical expenses.

The Congrams are represented by Provost Umphrey attorneys Keith Hyde and Rodney Barnwell.

Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court, will preside over the case.

Case No. D179-156

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