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Gas Station Attendant/Mechanic with Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Published on November 4th, 2020 by Andrew Hughes

Case Summary:  Oil Companies Prevail When Plaintiff’s Expert is Barred from Testifying 

The plaintiff’s husband, a former gas station attendant and mechanic, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (“AML”) in June 2013.  He passed away five months later. The widow sued various oil companies, including Chevron, Shell, and Texaco. She claimed that her husband was exposed to benzene at work. Benzene is a component of gasoline. Plaintiff argued that her husband inhaled gasoline fumes and had gasoline spill on his clothes.  She argued that he was also exposed to benzene when using gasoline to wash his hands and automotive parts. 

The late husband refueled cars and also worked as a mechanic. A coworker provided testimony that gasoline would often spill on employees when refueling cars. This coworker also added that there was a bucket of gasoline in the garage and mechanics would often clean their hands and automotive parts in the bucket. Plaintiff also recalled that she would often smell the fumes on her husband’s work clothes when she washed them at home. 

Plaintiff disclosed an expert to testify that her husband was exposed to enough gasoline (and with it benzene), to cause the AML. But plaintiff’s husband passed away before the expert could interview him. Therefore, plaintiff’s expert could only base his benzene dose estimates off of interviews with the widow and her husband’s former coworkers. 

The defendants moved to bar the expert.  The oil companies argued that the expert should not be allowed to testify as to the husband’s benzene dose because the co-worker testimony about exposures from 50 years ago was not reliable. The judge agreed with the defendants and barred the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony. 

Plaintiff’s husband was undoubtedly exposed to toxic levels of benzene while working at this gas station in the 1960s. But being exposed – and being able to actually prove up those exposures – are two different things. Unfortunately, the court agreed with defendants’ arguments that the expert testimony should not be allowed.  The court reasoned that the expert’s report was speculative. First-hand accounts from an interview with the decedent would have likely been more persuasive to the court. 

This case illustrates the importance of seeking a benzene attorney as soon as possible after the diagnosis.  Had the expert been able to interview the plaintiff’s husband, the expert may have had proper foundation for his dose opinions. These cases are complex undertakings with deep-pocketed defendants.  If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a blood or bone cancer, call 1-800-BENZENE and speak directly with an attorney today.  Don’t wait.

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

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