Benzene is a widely used chemical that is known to cause cancer. People who developed leukemia after working around benzene are suing large industrial companies. The lawsuits say the companies knew or should’ve known benzene can cause cancer but failed to warn about the risks.
Number of Lawsuits Thousands
Plaintiff Injuries Leukemia; other cancers
Defendants Large chemical, petroleum and other industrial companies
Bellwether Trial Date None
MDL Location None
Class-Action Status Active
Litigation Status Active
Benzene is one of the 20 most commonly used chemicals in America. It is also a known cause of cancer.
Thousands of people have sued large companies over benzene exposure. Benzene lawsuits say exposure to the chemical caused leukemia and other cancers. They have resulted in multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements.
Lawsuits point to studies that have linked benzene exposure to leukemia. This research led the federal government to limit how much benzene people could be exposed to on the job. The new standards, adopted in 1987, are 50 times lower than old standards.
Some research suggests benzene exposure limits are still too high. As of February 2018, the benzene exposure limit remained one part per million (ppm).
Did you know
As many as 2,000 people a year may be eligible to file a benzene lawsuit.
Legal experts believe as many as 2,000 people a year may be eligible to file a benzene lawsuit.
There may be hundreds of active benzene cancer lawsuits at any given time. Most lawsuits claim benzene exposure on the job caused leukemia years later.
Lawsuits surged in the 1990s, after lower benzene exposure limits took effect. The number of new lawsuits has remained steady.
Most people suing over benzene blame the chemical for causing leukemia.
People who file benzene lawsuits worked around the chemical and later developed leukemia. It can take years, or even decades, after benzene exposure before leukemia develops.
Types of Cancers in Benzene Lawsuits
Benzene lawsuits have named dozens of large oil and chemical companies. Many of the companies made products containing benzene. Others required workers to use benzene.
Some Companies Named in Benzene Lawsuits
A 2014 report revealed companies knew benzene could cause cancer but hid the risk.
Benzene lawsuits claim companies “knew or should have known” benzene was dangerous. They claim the companies did not do enough to warn people of the risks.
The Center for Public Integrity has reported that companies hid benzene’s cancer risk. The center published a report in 2014 that said companies knew as early as 1948 that benzene could cause cancer. But the companies hid the risk.
The center’s report said companies spent $36 million for research saying benzene was safe. The report relied on thousands of pages of company documents.
There have been several multimillion-dollar benzene verdicts.
One of the earliest cases resulted in a $34 million verdict for a Kansas woman. She claimed benzene exposure caused her husband’s death from leukemia. A federal appeals court later reduced the award to $21 million.
Juries have delivered several large benzene verdicts in recent years.
A Philadelphia jury awarded an $824,000 verdict in a benzene leukemia lawsuit. Louis DeSorbo claimed benzene in printing solvents caused his acute myeloid leukemia.
A Texas jury awarded an $8.2 million verdict. Virgil Hood claimed benzene in DuPont paint products caused his acute myeloid leukemia.
The Nevada Supreme Court upheld a $7.5 million dollar jury verdict. Rick Lewis drove a gasoline tanker for six years. His job exposed him to benzene, and he later died of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). A jury awarded the verdict in 2011.
In 2017, U.S. Steel agreed to an undisclosed settlement in a Pennsylvania benzene lawsuit. The settlement came after three weeks of trial, but before the jury returned a verdict. Former mechanic Michael Butts claimed benzene exposure caused his acute myelogenous leukemia.
In 2016, BP announced it would settle 25,000 benzene lawsuits in Texas. People filed lawsuits after a 40-day chemical leak at a Texas City chemical plant. The leak released 500,000 pounds of toxic chemicals, including benzene, into the air. The company did not specify the amount of the settlement
Benzene class action lawsuits usually address large chemical spills or releases. People in benzene class actions usually live near plants where accidents happened. Class action lawsuits often seek damages for lost property value. They seldom cover benzene cancer complications.
A benzene class action lawsuit ended in 2017 with a $4.83 million settlement.
Owners of the Wood River Refinery in Alton, Illinois, agreed to a $4.83 million class action settlement in 2017. More than 180 property owners in Roxana, Illinois, split the money.
Several spills caused a benzene plume under the people’s property. The lawsuit only addressed lost property value.
Class actions require everyone in the lawsuit to have suffered the same damage or injury. Benzene complications can vary from patient to patient. So can treatments. Most people who suffer benzene injuries file lawsuits through their own benzene attorney.
People who developed complications after benzene exposure can file lawsuits. Complications usually have to be severe. Injuries may include leukemia or other cancers.
People should gather as much information as they can about their benzene exposure. This includes their work history around benzene. This can help a lawyer determine if a person has a case.
The next step is to seek legal advice from a benzene attorney. Benzene lawsuits are complex. Lawyers who argue benzene cases must know chemistry, medicine and the law. Environmental lawyers specialize in this kind of lawsuit.
Most benzene attorneys do not charge for consultations. They usually charge a fee only if they win the case. People should make sure of this arrangement before talking to a lawyer.
Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.
Terry Turner is an Emmy-winning, former television journalist. He is an associate member of the American Bar Association, the ABA’s Health Law group and a member of the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates. He holds six certificates in Health Literacy for Healthcare Professionals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a Washington-based investigative reporter, he routinely reported on health and medical policy issues before Congress, the FDA and other federal agencies. Terry received his B.A. in Media Arts from Lyon College.