PHILADELPHIA – A former seaman has sued a long list of corporate defendants in state court, claiming their collective negligence in exposing him to benzene and other carcinogenic chemicals in the course of his work duties led him to develop acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).

Jose A. Vivas of Philadelphia filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Feb. 22 versus Manhattan Tankers Company, Inc. of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Exxon Mobil Corporation (c/o Corporation Services Company) of Harrisburg, and many others. 

The lawsuit states Vivas was a seaman and crewmember of a number of U.S. Merchant Marine vessels from 1968 to 1972, working in the capacity of performing ship maintenance and repair.

“During his time working for the defendants, plaintiff was, in the performance of such traditional maritime activities, exposed to toxic chemicals, including significant amounts of benzene contained in cleaning solvents, products and materials, liquid petroleum cargoes and fuels carried aboard those vessels. Such exposures occurred and resulted from the ordinary and foreseeable use of said products and materials, and/or the ordinary and foreseeable work in proximity to such cargoes and fuels,” the suit states.

“Such chronic, repeated and numerous exposures to those materials, in the course of the traditional maritime activities alleged herein, caused injury to plaintiff’s bone marrow and immunological systems that impaired his ability to produce healthy, normal blood cells. As a result of toxic, carcinogenic exposure to these petroleum cargoes, fuels and cleaning solvents containing benzene, plaintiff developed a blood disorder and disease diagnosed in April 2017 as acute myeloid leukemia.”

For counts of negligence under the Jones Act and unseaworthiness of the vessels he worked on, the plaintiff is seeking damages, jointly and severally, in excess of $50,000, comprising general damages, including for pain, suffering and mental anguish; loss to plaintiff’s earnings, benefits, support and earning capacity; medical, doctor, hospital, pharmaceutical, chemotherapy costs and expenses; pre-judgment interest, all costs of suit herein incurred and to be incurred, further relief as the court deems just and proper at law and in equity, in addition to a trial by jury.

The plaintiff is represented by Benjamin P. Shein of Shein Law Center, in Philadelphia.

Other defendants are Sunoco (R&M), LLC of Newtown Square; Hudson Waterways Corporation of New York, N.Y.; Marine Transport Lines of Secaucus, N.J.; Crowley Maritime Corporation of Jacksonville, Fla.; Isthmian Lines, Inc. and ISCO, Inc. of New York, N.Y.; United States Steel Corporation and Marathon Oil Corporation of Harrisburg and Houston, Texas; Sealand Service, Inc. and SL Service, Inc. of Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C.; Residual Enterprises Corporation of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; Farrell Lines of Norfolk, Va.; Sea Transport Corporation and International Bulktank Corporation of New York, N.Y.; Maritime Overseas Corporation of Albany and New York, N.Y.; CFS Corporation of New York, N.Y.; Overseas Shipholding Group, Inc. of Tampa, Fla.; Ogden Marine, Inc. of New York, N.Y.; OMI Courier Transport, Inc. of New York, N.Y.; OMI Corporation of Wilmington, Del and New York, N.Y.; and Ocean Clippers, Inc. of New York, N.Y.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180202209

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas

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