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Benzene, Silica and Other Chemicals Litigation

Walsworth is a recognized leader in the defense of claims that involve allegations of exposure to benzene, silica and other chemicals. Since our founding, we have represented clients in hundreds of these scientifically intensive, medically advanced and uniquely complicated matters, including cases that involve allegations of exposure to chemicals ranging from diacetyl and other food flavorings to formaldehyde. Our lawyers combine an extensive understanding of the legal and scientific issues with their in-depth knowledge of the industry to successfully defend clients in their most challenging cases. Our clients include manufacturers and distributors in the following industries:

  • Paints and Coatings
  • Chemicals and Solvents
  • Food Flavorings
  • Automobile Products
  • Cosmetics
  • Hair Care Products
  • Raw Metals and Steel
  • Herbicides, Pesticides and Fertilizers
  • Printing Products

Benzene, silica and other chemicals litigation often involves complex multi-party, multi-jurisdictional matters. When a case involves multiple parties, our lawyers take into consideration the individual needs and perspectives of each client while achieving the cost-sharing efficiencies and other benefits associated with multi-party litigation.

The lawyers in our toxic tort practice are also familiar with the illnesses and diseases that may be connected to different chemical exposures. We understand the relevant scientific, toxicological and epidemiological literature and keep abreast of the changes in said literature. When necessary, our lawyers also have the ability to call upon preeminent scientific and medical experts to help prepare and support our clients’ defenses.

In every matter, we launch an early investigation to fully evaluate our clients’ potential liability. We work to identify early exit strategies that allow our clients to avoid unnecessary fees and costs associated with prolonged litigation. Although we are able to secure a dismissal or settle on favorable terms prior to trial in many of the cases we handle, our lawyers are fully prepared to litigate our clients’ cases at every stage of the legal process.

Representative Successes

  • Gutierres v. Balch Petroleum, et al. – Obtained a defense verdict for a general engineering contractor after a five-week jury trial involving claims of exposure to carbon monoxide and other exhaust fumes.
  • Lopez v. Volk – Successfully resolved a difficult lead exposure case involving eight children claiming exposure to excessive amounts of lead in an apartment complex.
  • People v. Pacific Custom Materials, Inc. – Resolved a claim, well short of trial and for a modest penalty, on behalf of a manufacturer of concrete aggregate products in a claim for civil penalties arising out of alleged air permit violations caused by exceedances of several regulated chemicals and metals, including lead.
  • Environmental World Watch v. Pacific Custom Materials, Inc. – Successfully resolved a claim for a nominal amount well before trial on behalf of a manufacturer of concrete aggregate products defending claims by several surrounding neighbors and community activists alleging personal injury, property damage, and various statutory violations arising out of emissions of chemicals and metals, including lead.
  • Lewis v. 21st Century Fox Film Corporation – Summary judgment granted in favor of a supplier of crystalline silica dust product based on lack of causation. The plaintiff claimed lung injury as a result of inhalation of the product used to create dust effects in a Planet of the Apes battle scene while working on the movie set.
  • Lee v. ITW Food Equipment Group LLC – Summary judgment granted in favor of a refrigeration equipment maintenance company based on no duty of care. Multiple plaintiffs claimed personal injuries as a result of prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide in the workplace.
  • Llamas v. Yosemite Waters – Successfully resolved a lead exposure case for a water company during trial, involving three minors claiming excessive lead exposure allegedly caused by the solder used in a water storage tank.
  • Smith v. All American Battery Recycling – Summary judgment granted in favor of a large battery recycler defending claims of personal injury allegedly resulting from a subcontractor’s exposure to lead at a recycling facility.
  • Minor Defendant v. Landlord – Successfully settled a claim in favor of a residential landlord in a case involving an adolescent’s ingestion of paint, which allegedly raised his blood lead count to a dangerous level.
  • Sample v. Flint Ink Corporation, et al. – Obtained summary adjudication of a spouse’s claim, and the punitive damages claim, in a case involving alleged exposure to printing chemicals.
  • Johnson v. Estate of Albert Ross – Favorably settled a case after the claims were severely narrowed on summary adjudication in favor of a residential landlord defending personal injury claims brought by mother and child related to lead and mold exposure in their home.
  • Johnson v. American Standard, Inc. – The California Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment granted for defendants, establishing the sophisticated user defense which exempts manufacturers/suppliers from warning “sophisticated users” in negligence and strict product liability actions. Plaintiff was an HVAC technician who serviced commercial A/C systems at a number of financial institutional branches in Southern California.
  • Billing v. Akzo Nobel Paints LLC, et al. – Obtained summary adjudication of claims for punitive damages, breach of implied warranty, and negligence per se for a protective paint and coating manufacturing company in a case involving alleged benzene and other chemical exposure. The court agreed that the failure to identify a managing agent in response to written discovery was sufficient to defeat a claim for punitive damages. Further, the court agreed that insufficient and vague discovery responses prevented plaintiffs’ recovery for the causes of action of breach of implied warranties and negligence per se. The granting of this motion led to a nominal settlement by the client who was the last remaining defendant.
  • Vega, et al. v. 3M Company, et al. – Summary judgment granted for a protective paint and coating manufacturing company in a case involving claimed exposure to printing chemicals. After almost two years of litigation, and despite the fact that there were dozens of records of sales of our client’s product to decedent’s former employer, as well as numerous witnesses who identified our client’s product at decedent’s former employment, the Court agreed there was no evidence that the decedent was present when the cans of spray paint were used, and thus no evidence of any actual exposure.
  • Garcia-Singer v. Does 1 thru 100, et al. – Demurrer granted for a spray paint and chemical product manufacturing company in a solvent exposure case, which led to a dismissal with prejudice. The court agreed that plaintiffs’ overbroad description of categories of paints was not in compliance with the California law of Bockrath v. Aldrich Chemical Co., et al. requiring plaintiffs to identify specific products. This case has resulted in further narrowing of product identification in complaints by plaintiffs’ firms, helping prevent fishing expeditions by plaintiffs in toxic tort cases.