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Mack Shelby v. SeaRiver Maritime Inc. (formerly known as Exxon Shipping Company)

Published on July 10th, 2020 by Andrew Hughes

Maritime/ Jones Act/ Kidney Cancer Jury Verdict 

The Plaintiff was a maritime employee for the Defendant, SeaRiver Maritime Inc. (formerly known as Exxon Shipping Company) for 17 years. He worked on two vessels during his employment and worked with benzene and products containing benzene during those times. 

From 1987 to 1991, the Plaintiff transported crude oil from oil fields to refineries on SeaRiver’s tanker. This required him to load and unload oil, connect hoses, clean tanks, and other duties such as measuring and topping off oil levels. In 1991, he began working on another SeaRiver tanker that transported chemicals, such as heart-cut reformate and naphtha. The crude oil the Plaintiff worked with naturally contains 3% benzene and the heart-cut reformate contains 50% benzene. 

In 2003, the Plaintiff was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He required surgery to remove his kidney and suffered from other complications, such as hernias and diminished overall health. 

In 2006, the Plaintiff sued SeaRiver under the Jones Act. He alleged that they did not comply with federal regulations of benzene exposure levels, failed to warn him of the dangers of benzene exposure, and failed to provide him with personal protection equipment. At trial, the Plaintiff testified that he was not fitted with a respirator until 1992 and did not receive benzene awareness training until 1996. 

In 2008, when the Plaintiff was 57, the jury found that the Plaintiff’s kidney cancer and other health issues were a result of SeaRiver’s failure to provide a safe workplace and a seaworthy vessel. They awarded the Plaintiff $8 million. The Defendant unsuccessfully attempted to appeal this decision. 

Fuel Distribution and Maritime Exposure 

Benzene absorption occurs through the skin, ingestion, or inhalation. Those employed in the maritime industry, offshore workers, and fuel distribution are susceptible to benzene exposure from varying sources and levels 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 fuels and chemicals carried by their vessel.

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 the above-referenced 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.

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