California Jury Rules For Defense In Benzene Wrongful Death Case

California Jury Rules For Defense In Benzene Wrongful Death Case

LOS ANGELES -- A California Superior Court jury on Feb. 10 returned a verdict for the defense in a suit alleging that exposure to solvents including benzene caused a Los Angeles-area worker's death of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), saying that the exposure was not a substantial factor in the man's death and that the defendants did not conceal or fail to warn of alleged risks (Laura Hammond, et al. v. Shell Oil Company, et al., No. BC358265, Calif. Super, Los Angeles Co.).

The closest vote noted in the jury slip was 9-3 in favor of the defendants on failure to warn.  The jury voted 11-1 on substantial factor and 12-0 on design defect.

William Head worked for Pemaco Inc.'s Los Angeles County chemical facility from about 1984 through 1985 and again from 1988 through 1991, according to his complaint.  He blended benzene-containing chemical products, according to the complaint, and was exposed to other solvents including xylene, toluene and hexane. 

He was diagnosed with AML in May 2006 and filed suit in the Los Angeles County Superior Court in September 2006, naming, in addition to Pemaco, Shell Oil Co., Chevron Corp., Dow Chemical Corp., I.E. Du Pont de Nemours and Co. and others.  A notice of death was filed in the docket in October 2006.  Thereafter, the claims were prosecuted by his wife, Laura Hammond, on her behalf and that of their children. 

[Editor's Note:  Full coverage will be in the February issue of Mealey's Litigation Report: Benzene.  In the meantime, the verdict slip is available at or by calling the Customer Support Department at 1-800-833-9844.  Document #83-110223-003V.  For all of your legal news needs, please visit] 

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For more information, call editor Michael Lefkowitz at 215-988-7732, or e-mail him at