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Jury Finds U.S. Steel Liable in Benzene Exposure Case

Locks Law Attorneys Andrew DuPont and Jenna Kristal Egner Prove that U.S. Steel’s Benzene Caused Client’s Leukemia

On February 24, 2016 a Philadelphia jury found U.S. Steel liable for strict liability, recklessness and fraudulent concealment of the health hazards of benzene that caused a worker’s Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in a case (DeSorbo vs. U.S. Steel)  tried by Andrew DuPont and Jenna Kristal Egner.

According to DuPont, the case was made particularly challenging by Connecticut law which applies a 10-year statute of repose for products liability and requires proof of actual knowledge and intentional misrepresentation or fraudulent concealment to avoid application of the limitations period.

U.S. Steel  sold benzene incorporated as an ingredient in a printing solvent that Louis DeSorbo, who resided in Connecticut, used as a student in a vocational high school and in the workplace from 1972 – 1975. In 1967 the State of Illinois urged the manufacturer of the printing solvent to remove benzene from its product because benzene was a suspected carcinogenic agent. Although the company stopped selling the version of its product containing benzene as an ingredient in Illinois, it continued to sell the product containing benzene throughout the rest of the country, including in Connecticut, for ten more years. DuPont and Egner persuaded the jury that the benzene supplied by U.S. Steel was defective,  and that exposure to U.S. Steel’s benzene caused DeSorbo’s AML.

“The jury found that U.S. Steel had actual knowledge of benzene’s ability to cause leukemia and blood poisoning and that benzene should be replaced by less toxic solvents,” DuPont said. “In addition, we were able to show that U.S. Steel fraudulently concealed that information by not warning about these dangers, thereby acting with reckless indifference to the rights and safety of others.”

Compensatory damages were awarded in the amount of $824,000. The finding of recklessness may also entitle Locks Law’s client, DeSorbo, to punitive damages.

“The jury’s verdict holds US Steel accountable for concealing the health hazards of its benzene products and causing life-threatening forms of cancer and blood disease that can devastate the lives of workers and their families,” DuPont said.

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