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Clark v. Kellogg, Brown & Root

Published on June 3rd, 2020 by Andrew Hughes

Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Maritime / Jones Act Verdict 

The Plaintiff, Aubrey Clark, was employed on several barges owned by the Defendant, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR). He worked as a helper, rigger, and leadman throughout his employment from 1972 to 1986. His job required him to clean tools with benzene that was supplied to him by the Defendant. 

In 2006, he was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). He sued the Defendant claiming they were negligent under the Jones Act and that benzene exposure led to his leukemia. The Jones Act allows maritime workers to bring claims based on negligence or unseaworthiness against their employer or ship owner. The parties opted for a bench trial, which means that a judge rendered the verdict, rather than a jury.

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Mr. Clark alleged that the Defendant knew or should have known about the dangers of benzene, yet did not warn him or provide him with protective equipment. He provided testimony that he was exposed to benzene on average, every other day, from a few minutes to several hours. A coworker also testified to the presence of benzene on the barges Mr. Clark worked on. KBR put up a witness who testified that benzene was not present on any of their barges, however, the Court found Plaintiff’s testimony, and the testimony of his coworker and expert to be more persuasive and concluded that benzene was present on the barges where Mr. Clark worked.

At trial in 2009, the court found the Defendant negligent and awarded the Plaintiff $3,218,845. On appeal, the Appellate Court explained that under the Jones Act, a plaintiff only needs to prove that cancer was caused, “in whole or in part” by exposure to benzene. The Court also explained that Mr. Clark did not need to pinpoint exactly how much benzene he was exposed to, but rather, he was required to show that he was exposed to benzene at levels that contributed to his leukemia. 

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Maritime Exposure and Illnesses

Those working in the maritime industry have varying sources and levels of benzene exposure depending on their occupation and type of vessel. One worker may be exposed from using solvents to clean and maintain pipes, tools and equipment, while other workers are exposed to benzene from the chemicals or fuels carried by their vessel. Those who have been exposed to benzene in the maritime industry may be at an increased risk of developing a benzene related illness. 

If you or a loved one have worked in the maritime industry and have been diagnosed with a benzene related illness, it may be a result of occupational exposure and you may have a claim. Call Benzene Lawyers at 1-800-BENZENE to learn more today.

We are providing this case history to inform visitors about actual case fact patterns and rulings. Unless specifically noted, the cases summarized herein were not handled by attorneys at Hughes Law Offices.  If you believe that you have a case similar to this one, feel free to call 1-800-BENZENE and speak with a benzene attorney today.

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