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Gasoline Tanker Driver Diagnosed with MDS

Published on October 15th, 2020 by Andrew Hughes

When gasoline tanker driver Elwyn Webb was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), little did he know that he’d start a costly fight between the defendants responsible for his tragic diagnosis.  Mr. Webb died in 2016, just three months after his MDS diagnosis. Mr. Webb’s wife and son filed a claim against the property owners and oil companies whose negligence led to his MDS.  

Gasoline tanker truck drivers are at an increased risk of developing blood and bone marrow cancers like MDS because they inhale benzene-containing vapors when they load up the tanker and when they unload at their destination. Benzene exposures are an established cause of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and MDS. Benzene can also be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. So when tanker drivers get gasoline on their skin, those exposures can also lead to AML or MDS.

Mr. Webb worked for Coastal Transport Company (“Coastal).  His job was to load, transport and unload gasoline.  He picked up the gasoline at terminals and loading racks owned and/or operated by several defendants including Conoco, now Phillips 66 Company (“Phillips”). These companies are aware of the connection between the benzene in gasoline and the increased risk of cancer. 

After being named in the lawsuit, Phillips contacted Coastal’s insurer, Canal Indemnity Company (“Canal”) seeking to be defended and indemnified. This basically means that because of contracts between Coastal and Phillips, Phillips believed that Canal was required to represent Phillips in the Webb lawsuit, and more importantly, cover any damages attributed to Phillips arising from the lawsuit. Canal denied Phillips’ request, arguing that under the contracts the benzene that Mr. Webb inhaled and absorbed through his skin should be classified as a “pollutant” and that injuries caused by a pollutant are not covered. Phillips argued that Mr. Webb was transporting gasoline, and that gasoline is not a pollutant. In the lawsuit between Phillps and Canal, it was of no matter to Phillips that the gasoline contained benzene and that this benzene was the cause of Mr. Webb’s MDS. 

Canal and Phillips undoubtedly spent countless hours and significant amounts of money on a lawsuit over who bore the legal responsibility for the gasoline tanker truck driver’s myelodysplastic syndrome. Imagine how hard they will fight against you. If you or a loved one worked with or around petroleum products including gasoline, solvents, and degreasers and has recently been diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome or another form of leukemia, call 1-800-BENZENE.  Speak with a toxic tort lawyer who will fight for you.

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