Plaintiff Sues Suppliers, Manufacturers and Others for Benzene Exposure; Some Defendants Win Summary Judgment

Case: McCormack v. Safety‑Kleen Systems

Court: Supreme Court, New York County

Date: July 16, 2013

From: New York attorney Gary E. Rosenberg (personal injury and accident attorney and lawyer; serving Brooklyn and Queens; Queens accident lawyer)

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Facts: This is a products liability case. Plaintiff sued because he developed myelodysplastic syndrome and non‑Hodgkin's lymphoma. He claims that this comes from working with a the N.Y. Telephone Co. where he used and was exposed to products containing the chemical benzene. Mostly, he used the products to clean truck parts.

Plaintiff sued a bunch of companies, in fact most of the companies that manufactured products containing this chemical, benzene. Four defendants ask the court to throw out the case against them, based on various grounds.

(1) U.S. Steel Corp. claims that plaintiff can't show specifically that its product, called "Raffinate," was used by plaintiff.

(2) (a) Safety-Kleen's position is that the plaintiff offered no evidence that its product, S‑K 105, caused plaintiff to get sick. Plaintiff's exposure was low-level.

(b) Plaintiff argued that while he didn't use Safety-Kleen daily, when he did, he could have is hands in it for hours at a time; no gloves were worn. Plaintiff's expert argues that his exposure to all the defendants' products, cumulatively and added up together, contributed to the high dose of plaintiff's benzene exposure.

(3) Sears says that there simply no proof that any of the dangerous chemical products was purchased from a Sears store. Plaintiff can't say if paint thinner he bought at Sears, for home use, contained Benzene. Evidence showed that the Liquid Wrench he bought from Sears had no benzene at that time.

(4) Island Transportation argues that, as a mere deliverer of product (gasoline), it cannot be responsible: plaintiff produced no evidence that Island delivered the harmful products to plaintiff's work places.

Held: (1) U.S. Steel Corp. (loses) Its product was made into "Liquid Wrench," which plaintiff had on his hands almost daily. He was never warned about the danger, which the company knew about.

(2) Safety-Kleen (loses) Plaintiffs' expert established a "causal relationship" between plaintiff's exposure and his illnesses, sufficient to defeat defendant's summary judgment motion.

(3) Sears (wins) Sears is let out of the case.

(4) Island Transportation (wins) Island has shown that it is entitled to summary judgment because it didn't deliver to the places plaintiff worked at the times he claims to have been exposed to Benzene.

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