Pennsylvania Record

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Former U.S. Steel pipefitter says benzene exposure at plant caused his leukemia

By Nicholas Malfitano | Jan 11, 2018


PITTSBURGH – A plaintiff who worked as a pipefitter at the U.S. Steel-owned Clairton Works for 12 years claims his leukemia was caused by routine exposure to benzene and benzene-containing products at the facility.

John F. Verlich of Clairton filed suit in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas on Jan. 5 versus United States Steel Corporation of Pittsburgh.

According to the lawsuit, Verlich was employed as a pipefitter at the Clairton Works from 1971 to 1983. The Clairton Works is a coke manufacturing facility, by which a resulting product is benzene.

Verlich averred the benzene was conveyed throughout the facility in valves, pumps and pipelines, and stored in barrels and tanks. As a part of his duties, Verlich worked in most areas of the Clairton Works, including the coke ovens, screening station, Keystone plant, tar plant and tar stills, and the benzene areas, regularly working on valves, pumps, pipelines, standpipes and other apparatuses that contained benzene.

This exposure occurred through inhalation, ingestion and skin absorption, Verlich asserts. As a direct result, the plaintiff claims to have contracted Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) and was diagnosed with the condition in March 2016.

“Plaintiff was first diagnosed with CLL…more than 300 weeks past his last occupational exposure to benzene and benzene-containing products while in the defendant’s employment. Pursuant to Tooey v. AK Steel and Pennsylvania law, plaintiff has no remedy under the Workers Compensation laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and therefore, the exclusivity provision of Section 303(a) of the Workers Compensation Act does not preclude plaintiff from seeking compensation for his injuries via a common law action against his employer,” the suit says.

According to Verlich, U.S. Steel either knew or could and should have known that regular exposure to benzene and benzene-containing products would be carcinogenic and cause a variety of diseases and failed to protect him from this environment, among a litany of other charges and allegations.

For counts of negligence, gross negligence, battery, fraud, the plaintiff is seeking damages in excess of $35,000, plus other and further relief as the Court deems just and appropriate under the circumstances, including punitive damages, costs, interest and delay damages.

The plaintiff is represented by Signe O’Brien Rudberg and Christina K. Hurnyak of Rudberg Law Offices in Pittsburgh, and Herschel L. Hobson, Tina Bradley and Andrew S. Lipton, of Hobson & Bradley in Nederland, Texas.

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas case GD-18-000208

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County