The lawsuit was filed by Steven J. Williams, an auto mechanic who has worked in repair shops since 1982. He was frequently exposed to products containing benzene or chlorinated hydrocarbons.
Williams was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that starts in bone marrow. He claims it was caused by exposure to carcinogens in diesel fuel, parts washer solvent, paint, belt dressings, and more.
None of these products carried warnings about their potential hazards. They all contained benzene, a toxic chemical that is known to cause blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.
Benzene is a sweet-smelling, flammable chemical that evaporates quickly. Auto mechanics are mainly exposed by breathing it in the air or absorbing it through their skin. Benzene accumulates in the bone marrow and causes the bones to produce cancerous white blood cells.
Benzene is found in many products that auto mechanics use regularly, such as solvents (degreasers, cleaning agents, etc.) and car paint. Benzene is also found in gasoline, car exhaust, and cigarette smoke.
In recent years, several benzene exposure lawsuits have resulted in multi-million dollar jury awards. For example, a railroad worker with leukemia awarded $7.5 million in November 2016. He was exposed to benzene, creosote, and solvents on the job.
Lawyers for Mr. Williams accuse over a dozen defendants of failing to provide adequate warnings about the risk of cancer from benzene and exposure to diesel fuel, despite evidence dating back to the 1950s.
The lawsuit was filed against Ashland Inc., BP Products North America Inc., Hess Corp., Safety-Kleen Systems Inc., The Sherwin-Williams Co., E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., Axalta Coating Systems LLC, CRC Industries Inc., Rust-Oleum Corp., Radiator Specialty Co., Heritage Crystal Clean LLC, Shell Oil Co., ExxonMobil Corp. and Marathon Petroleum Corp.
The lawsuit was filed on February 1, 2017 in Cook County Circuit Court — In RE: Steven J. Williams v. BP Products North America Inc., et al — Case No. 2016-L001056.