PHILADELPHIA – The surviving spouse of a Rohm & Haas machinist is pursuing legal damages against the chemical company, arguing their negligence led her husband to contract cancer before his passing last month.
George Raven (now deceased) and Linda Raven of Seabrook, Texas filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on July 17 versus Rohm & Haas Company and Rohm & Haas Delaware Valley, Inc., both of Philadelphia.
As Rohm & Haas Delaware Valley, Inc. no longer exists, it was mutually agreed upon by all parties to be dismissed as a defendant on Sept. 11.
Beginning in 1976 and ending in 2002, George Raven worked as a machinist for Rohm & Haas Delaware Valley, Inc., a subsidiary of the Rohm & Haas Company, at the Bridesburg Plant. The Dow Chemical Company purchased Rohm & Haas in April 2009 and operated the Bridesburg Plant, located in Philadelphia’s Port Richmond neighborhood, until its closure in 2011.
The company manufactured two main products: Ion Exchange Resins (a uniform bead-size copolymer) and Goal (an herbicide for pre-emergence and/or post-emergence control of certain annual broadleaf and grassy weeds).
“It should be noted that defendant Rohm & Haas’s chemical handling practices were so reckless and lax that by 1975, one year before Mr. Raven began [his employment], at least 54 employees had died of respiratory cancer caused by exposure to BCME. The New York University Institute of Environmental Medicine concluded in 1971 that BCME was the most potent carcinogen found until then,” the lawsuit reads.
Bis(chloromethyl) Ether, or BCME, is a chemical compound and colorless liquid, which forms spontaneously from the combination of hydrochloric acid and formaldehyde.
“In 1985, the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), spent five months inspecting the Bridesburg Plant and cited the company for six ‘serious’ violations. A serious violation is one where OSHA finds a substantial possibility of death or serious injury and that the company knew of the hazard or should have known,” the suit states.
“OSHA also found that defendant Rohm & Haas failed to train employees adequately on personal protective equipment and that its leak-detection system was deficient. As a result, there were at least 21 leaks of a carcinogen from June 1 to Sept. 1. More importantly, the OSHA inspection found that the company did not log five recently-discovered cases of respiratory cancer, including those of the four employees who have died since 1982, until after inspection began. Unfortunately, these dangers were hidden from workers like the plaintiff, Mr. Raven.”
In consulting the company’s Exposure Profile System, George was exposed to Toluene, Trichloroethane, Xylene, BCME, Butoxyethanol, Chloromethyl, EtO and MIBK, and other unaccounted-for exposures, which consisted of numerous hazardous, toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, the suit says. All of these exposures led him to be placed at a significantly increased risk for developing life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer, the suit says.
In late 2017, George had a medical scan of his chest performed and was subsequently diagnosed with cancer, caused by his exposure to workplace chemicals, including BCME, the suit says.
Per the litigation, the plaintiffs argued negligence on the part of the defendants in their alleged failure to provide appropriate protective equipment for chemical operators who came in daily contact with potentially-hazardous chemicals, failure to provide appropriate workplace safeguards for chemical operators conducting chemical research with potentially hazardous and known chemicals and failure to provide adequate warnings regarding potentially hazardous chemicals, among other charges.
Through counsel on Aug. 27, Linda Raven filed a notice suggesting her husband and co-plaintiff George Raven had passed away two days earlier, on Aug. 25.
For counts of negligence and loss of consortium, the plaintiffs are seeking both compensatory and punitive damages in excess of the local arbitration limits.
The plaintiffs are represented by Aaron J. Freiwald and Glenn A. Ellis of Freiwald Law, in Philadelphia.
The defendant is represented by Samuel W. Silver and John R. Timmer of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, also in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180601623
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org