Oakland, CA - Opening statements begin Monday in California state court in a lawsuit filed by a long-time automobile mechanic and painter who claims he developed cancer due to benzene exposure, and the proceedings will be webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.
Plaintiff Jimmy Thomas worked in garages from 1967 until 2008. In 2017 he developed a form of cancer affecting the blood and bone marrow known as myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, which he attributes to working with benzene-containing products manufactured by a range of automotive paint manufacturers, distributors and retailers.
The only remaining defendant in the case is The Savogran Company, a Massachusetts-based company that sells chemical removers and cleaners, solvents and repair products. They argue that Thomas’ decades-long history of working with numerous chemical products means his illness can’t be specifically traced to their products, and that MDS isn’t solely caused by benzene exposure.
Benzene, a colorless, flammable liquid, is one of the 20 most widely-used chemicals in the United States, usually as an industrial solvent.
Benzene litigation, like asbestos cases, is widespread but a case proceeding to a jury trial is extremely rare. When benzene cases do go to trial, they often involve substantial alleged damages. A jury in nearby Contra Costa County returned a $21.4 million benzene-related verdict in March.
The current trial in Oakland is taking place before Judge Brad Seligman.
Thomas is represented by Andrew DuPont, a Philadelphia-based attorney with Locks Law Firm, and Rajeev Mittal and Jonathan George out of Waters Kraus & Paul’s Los Angeles and Dallas offices.
Savogran is represented by Brian Ledger and Philip Lo of Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani LLP.
The case is captioned Thomas v. Akzo Nobel Coatings Inc., et al. case number RG17882514, in Alameda County Superior Court.
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