Mechanic sues Shell over benzene exposure

Michelle Massey Aug. 10, 2010, 8:15am

A mechanic has filed a Jones Act lawsuit against his previous employers for allowing their vessels to be saturated with benzene-contaminated air and for not warning him of the risks of contamination.

Eric C. and Carolyn Wright filed suit against Shell Offshore Inc., Shell Oil Products Co., P.G.S. Exploration, D.W.S. International Inc., C.G.S. Veritas International, S.A. Permatex Inc., Klean Strip, Radiator Specialty Co., LPS Laboratories, Henkel Loctite Corp., WD-40 Co., Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. July 27 in federal court in New Orleans.

Eric Wright worked as a mechanic on the various defendants' vessels from 1976 until 2009. During that time, Wright states he was exposed to benzene and benzene-containing chemicals and solvents.

The defendants are accused of permitting the vessels to be saturated and/or enveloped with benzene-contaminated air, failing to properly inspect or maintain their vessels to ensure the contaminated air would be contained, failing to warn of the unsafe conditions and health risks associated with the benzene exposure, failing to make adequate precautions on their respective vessels to prevent the ongoing release of benzene into crew spaces and work areas, and failing to reduce, minimize or eliminate benzene exposure levels.

The companies are also accused of not implementing adequate air monitoring, failing to provide personal protective equipment and violating transportation regulations by transporting hazardous materials in interstate commerce.

The manufacturer defendants, Shell Oil Co., Permatex, Radiation Specialty Co., LPS Laboratories, Henkel Loctite, WD-40 Corp., W.M. Barr, and Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co., are accused of strict product liability in that their products presented an unreasonable risk of harm and were unreasonably dangerous due to inherent characteristics, lack of warnings and defective designs.

The Wrights are seeking damages for physical pain, suffering, functional disability and impairment, mental and emotional pain, anguish, suffering, mental and emotional deficiency, medical expenses, loss of wages, lost benefits, loss of earning capacity, loss of insurability, disability and disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, interest, maintenance and cure.

The plaintiffs are represented by Metairie attorneys L. Eric Williams of Williams Law Office and Richard J. Fernandez and Amber E. Cisney of the Law Office of Richard J. Fernandez.

U.S. District Judge Sarah S. Vance is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:10cv02108

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