NEW ORLEANS –– A pending benzene contamination lawsuit will head back to state court, a federal judge ruled.
The July 31 decision by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Nannette Brown allows the lawsuit brought by Amon and Sandra Merritt to continue against several large corporations, who allegedly exposed Amon to products containing benzene.
The couple filed the suit in 2015, shortly after Amon was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia. The couple claims the disease stems from working alongside benzene chemicals as a boilermaker, mechanic and gas station attendant.
In their original suit, the Merritts sued over 20 businesses, including U.S. Steel, Saudi Refining, Chevron, Exxon and 3M. Last year, five of the defendants -- Chevron, CRC Industries, Unocal, U.S. Steel and Texaco -- successfully petitioned to remove the case from state court to federal court.
Amon claims the disease was caused by exposure to benzene through his jobs, such as gas station attendant.
The companies argued many of them were not based in the Merritts' home state of Mississippi. The Meritts sought to have the case removed back to state court.
In her ruling, Brown found the case should never have been removed to federal court in first place, because the defendants' petition was "untimely." In addition, one of the defendants, Turner Industries, is from the Merritts home state and, thus, prevents removal. Brown granted the Merritts motion to remand.