Focus on Your Recovery

Let Us Fight the Corporations
That Caused Your Illness

Maritime Workers

Maritime Workers & Benzene

Maritime workers on our navigable rivers, lakes and high seas have historically endured benzene exposures. The mariners who suffered those benzene exposures are at an elevated risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). If you’ve been diagnosed with AML or MDS, you can file a number of different claims.  

Under the Jones Act, you can sue your employer for negligence and recover damages for medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering. Admiralty/unseaworthiness claims can be brought against the owner of the vessel on which you worked. In addition, if you were exposed to benzene containing products such as fuels, chemicals, solvents, paints or degreasers, you can file a product liability claim against the manufacturers of those products.

Jones Act benzene maritime

Who is Eligible?

These claims are available to seamen, helpers, riggers, leadmen, quartermasters, boatswains, mates and masters. Basically any member of the vessel’s crew. For the Jones Act to apply, your vessel must be used, or capable of being used, for maritime transportation. In addition to oceangoing ships – tugboats, commercial fishing boats, pile drivers, dredges, scows, and barges are all considered vessels under the Jones Act. Certain oil drilling rigs, including semisubmersibles, jack-up rigs, and tension leg platforms are typically covered under the Jones Act. Workers on oil production platforms that are fixed to the seabed are generally not covered by the Jones Act.

Jones Act benzene maritime

Common Benzene Exposure Routes

The benzene exposures for the men and women working in the maritime industry differ by job, craft, and the type of vessel.  Many individuals working and maintaining ships, tugboats and barges regularly used benzene-containing products. Solvents were used to wash tools and equipment, but workers also used solvents to wash their hands. Unfortunately, benzene can be absorbed through the skin. The shippers can be held liable for their lack of training and failure to supply protective equipment. And the product manufacturers can be liable for failing to warn the seamen.

Seamen on oil tankers were exposed via their freight. The benzene content for the various products hauled by oil tankers varied. For instance, crude oil contains up to 7% benzene, gasoline once contained up to 5% benzene and airplane fuel was up to 10% benzene. Even pure benzene was shipped in oil tankers. Workers on oil tankers suffered benzene exposures by inhaling the fumes. Connecting and disconnecting fuel hoses could place benzene vapors in your breathing space. When they gauged the storage tanks to measure the product levels, they suffered benzene exposures. And when they cleaned the tanks after unloading, once again, they suffered benzene exposures. These chronic benzene exposures can lead to blood and bone marrow cancers, like AML, MDS and multiple myeloma.

Maritime Workers & Benzene – Verdicts & Settlements

$2,308,513 verdict (California, 2015)

The Plaintiff was exposed to benzene-containing crude oil and other carcinogens while working aboard ships owned by the Defendant and its predecessors from 1988 to 1996. The Plaintiff subsequently developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Thankfully, at the time of trial, the Plaintiff’s illness was in remission.

$17,498,000 verdict (Louisiana, 2012)

The Plaintiff spent four years working as a petroleum inspector on ships and barges that were owned by Chevron, Texaco, and Unocoal during the 1980’s. While performing his normal duties, he was regularly exposed to benzene. In some instances, he was exposed to pure benzene. Many years later, the Plaintiff, then age 48, was diagnosed with leukemia and colon cancer. The lawsuit advanced to trial against Chevron only. Chevron was severely sanctioned for failing to produce corporate representatives for deposition. As a result, the court ordered that the parties proceed to trial on damages only. The jury awarded $5,498,000 in compensatory damages and an additional $12,000,000 in punitive damages. 

$8,000,000 verdict (California, 2008) 

The Plaintiff worked as a seaman for Exxon Shipping Company (later renamed SeaRiver Maritime) for 15 years before he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He worked on several tankers which transported crude oil and a variety of chemicals. The air on these ships was contaminated with benzene. The 52-year-old Plaintiff ultimately had to have his kidney removed and was forced to retire early. The jury compensated him for lost wages along with past and future pain and suffering.

$5,110,000 verdict (California, 2002)

The Plaintiff, age 51, worked as a merchant seaman on the Defendant’s vessels, hauling crude oil from Alaska to Southern California. He endured chronic benzene exposure while cleaning the tanks, bilges, engines, and below deck spaces. He was also exposed to benzene while assisting with the loading and unloading of crude oil. After seven years working for the Defendant, he was diagnosed with Stage III bladder cancer. The Plaintiff underwent chemotherapy, radiation, and multiple surgeries. The Defendant argued that the Plaintiff’s minor smoking history was the cause of his illness. The award included $1,270,000 in economic damages and $3,840,000 in non-economic damages. The jury attributed 15 percent fault to the Plaintiff; the net award was reduced accordingly.

$1,500,000 settlement (Massachusetts, 2000)

The Decedent had worked as a pump man aboard various tankers in the 1970s and 1980s where he was exposed to benzene. In 1994, about 15 years since his last exposure to benzene, the decedent was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. Prior to and during that 15-year period, decedent had been a heavy smoker. Plaintiff passed away from AML in 1995. The widow brought suit against the vessel claiming her late husband’s AML was caused by his exposure to benzene while working aboard the tanker. The parties reached a $1.5 million settlement.

$5,834,221 verdict (Louisiana, 2000)

The Plaintiff was employed by Sabine Towing for 39 years working as a seaman, quartermaster, boatswain, third mate, second mate, chief mate, and master. Over the course of his career, he was exposed to benzene and benzene-containing products being transported on Sabine’s vessels. As a result of his exposure, he developed myeloproliferative disorder which quickly evolved into acute myelogenous leukemia. He died shortly thereafter, and his wife filed the lawsuit on behalf of his estate. The jury found Sabine Towing responsible, along with Chevron, Conoco, Marathon, and Dow Chemical.

Hughes Law Offices is providing these case histories to inform visitors about actual case fact patterns, settlements, verdicts, and rulings. Unless specifically noted, the cases summarized herein were not handled by attorneys at Hughes Law Offices.

Jones Act benzene maritime

Hughes Law Offices May Be Able To Help

These cases are complicated undertakings. They often involve multiple legal theories and require many experts. It is vital to have experienced counsel. While you focus on your recovery, let us do the work needed to prove your case. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with AML or MDS after a career in the maritime industry, call 1-800-BENZENE to speak with a benzene lawyer today.

find out more from our clients

Client Testimonials

Professional and Trustworthy

From my very first contact with Andrew we have found him to be compassionate, hard working and trust worthy. In the eight months we were associated with Andrew we feel he has also become a friend of ours

- Ronald

Wrongful Death Case

My family hired attorney Hughes for the wrongful death of my brother. Mr. Hughes worked very hard on our case, the results were excellent. I would recommend him to anyone needing an attorney, he is a very fair and kind person.

- Carolyn

Contact us Today!  Call us at 1 (800) BENZENE or submit FREE CASE EVALUATION