Benzene defendants granted access to deceased's tissue

By Jim Boyle | Sep 12, 2014

A Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge has granted a motion filed by defendants in a negligence suit asking for access to the deceased plaintiff's tissue samples.

The Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania has been ordered by Judge Lisa Rau to provide the tissue to the attorneys representing Premcor Refining Group and Valero Energy Corporation. The testing will help determine the underlying cause of death for the decedent, plaintiff Andre Harvey.

Harvey filed a negligence suit against the defendants in December 2012, saying that exposure to benzene caused him to receive a diagnosis for acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) in July 2012.

According to the suit, Harvey was a laborer and boiler-maker who worked as an independent contractor from 2002 to 2012 in New Jersey and Pennsylvania refineries owned and operated by the defendants.

The nature of his job required Harvey to work in close proximity with petroleum manufacturing, processing and storage equipment that heavily used the benzene chemical as part of the refining process. The suit says that Harvey had been exposed to the substance through inhalation and physical contact, causing severe medical complications including cancer. He died during the litigation of his claims, with the suit continued by his estate.

The complaint says the defendants acted negligently by failing to keep the premises clear of benzene spillage or leaks into the atmosphere, water and grounds.

"Defendants had a duty to act with reasonable and prudent care to prevent and control the spill, release of and discharge of benzene into the air, ground and water at and around
the refineries," the claim says.

According to the complaint, the defendants did not take extra caution to warn the plaintiff of the potential dangers of coming into contact with benzene. Their alleged failure to inspect and remediate the refineries of possible benzene leaks contributed to Harvey's condition. They are also accused of providing false information to regulatory agencies regarding the safety of the refineries.

The case ID number is 121202471.

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