Dr Shezad Malik Law Firm has offices based in Fort Worth and Dallas and represents people who have suffered catastrophic and serious personal injuries including wrongful death, caused by the negligence or recklessness of others. We specialize in Personal Injury trial litigation and focus our energy and efforts on those we represent.

Benzene Toxic Pit Lawsuit

In this article, I’ll address the dangers of Benzene, a popular chemical used in many industries.

Benzene Toxic Pit

Benzene Toxic Pit lead to deadly cancer in a California man

California Benzene Toxic Pit Lawsuit

A California jury in a trial in Santa Barbara awarded $63 million in damages against Chevron. The jury found the oil giant was liable for covering up a toxic chemical pit on land purchased by a man who built a house on it and was later diagnosed with a deadly blood cancer.

According to Kevin Wright’s lawsuit, he developed multiple myeloma after building his home directly over the chemical pit near Santa Barbara in 1985. Wright lived in that house for about two years but 27 years later, he was diagnosed with a type of blood cancer that can be caused by benzene exposure.

In 2015, Wright was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, has received two stem cell treatments, and is getting chemo once a month, and he’s going to continue to do that for the foreseeable future.

Kevin Wright alleged that starting in 1974, Chevron subsidiary Union Oil Company of California had operated a sump pit for oil and gas production, a process that left the dangerous carcinogenic chemical benzene on the property. Union Oil hid the use of a toxic chemical sump pit for production purposes in 1974, land that was eventually sold in 1983.

Wright bought the land and built the house in 1985. Nearly three decades later, he was diagnosed with the cancer that attacks plasma cells in the blood. Benzene, a known carcinogen, was discovered at toxic levels in the soil beneath his home in Santa Maria decades after the property was sold again.

Benzene Toxic Pit Punitive Damages

The jurors in Santa Barbara returned the $63 million verdict, awarding compensatory and punitive damages. “Chevron poisoned the ground, they poisoned this community, and they tried to poison the science to cover it all up,” said Jakob Norman, an attorney for Wright. “This case is a blatant example of environmental pollution and corporate malfeasance that directly caused immense physical harm to our client.”

The jury found Unocal (a k a Union Oil) and its parent company, Chevron grossly negligent for waiting 41 years to clean up a benzene-contaminated underground waste sump in what’s now a Santa Maria residential neighborhood.

Kevin Wright, who developed terminal blood cancer years after building his dream house directly above the sump site in 1985, was awarded $22 million for actual damages.

Wright is alive today, thanks only to relentless chemotherapy treatments that leave him so weakened he has to crawl up his stairs.

The jury also awarded Wright an additional $41 million for punitive damages. That translates to $1 million for each year Union Oil failed to abide by a California state law then in effect that required oil companies to excavate and remove the toxic remains, drilling muds, cuttings, contaminated water, and other industrial byproducts of oil drilling, before covering the site with fresh soil and selling the land for real estate development.

“They cut corners, and my life was turned upside down as a result,” Wright said in a statement. “Chevron’s continued denial of the harm they caused is a shameful reminder that this company values only profits, not people.”

Despite strict California laws related to the disposal of these toxic chemicals in the ground, Chevron denied any wrongdoing and supplied bogus research from the American Petroleum Institute that argued Benzene was less harmful.

Chevron Unocal was Grossly Negligent in the Benzene Toxic Pit Lawsuit

Union Oil and a partnership of five other oil companies created a mega Santa Maria oil patch in 1964,  called the Santa Maria Valley Oil & Gas Field,  on land that today is completely residential. For 10 years, this group of oil companies drilled and produced. Then they covered the land with soil.

Unocal should have hauled off the contaminated soil from the sump, which would become Wright’s home, it would have taken them a few hours in remediation efforts. When Chevron assumed control of the land in 2011, having purchased Union Oil in 2005, Chevron initiated the cleanup and remediation work. By 2016, 6,650 tons of oil-contaminated soil would be taken away, but this was too little too late.

What is Benzene?
Benzene is a colorless, highly flammable liquid with a sweet odor. Benzene is a natural component of crude oil and is one of the most widely used chemicals in the industry. It serves as a building block in the production of various materials, including plastics, synthetic fibers, rubbers, dyes, detergents, and pharmaceuticals. It’s also used as a solvent in many industrial processes.

However, benzene exposure can be hazardous to human health. Prolonged exposure to benzene can cause serious health problems, including leukemia and other cancers. Due to its carcinogenic nature, there are strict regulations on the use and handling of benzene in many countries.

Why is Benzene so dangerous?
Benzene is considered dangerous for several reasons:
  1. Carcinogenicity: Benzene is classified as a carcinogen by various health agencies, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Chronic exposure to benzene has been linked to the development of various cancers, including leukemia (particularly acute myeloid leukemia), as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
  2. Toxicity: Benzene is toxic to multiple organs in the body, particularly the bone marrow, where it can disrupt the production of blood cells. This can lead to conditions such as aplastic anemia, where the bone marrow fails to produce enough blood cells, causing fatigue, weakness, and an increased risk of infections and bleeding.
  3. Volatile Nature: Benzene is highly volatile, meaning it readily evaporates into the air at room temperature. Inhalation of benzene vapors is a common route of exposure, especially in occupational settings where benzene is used or produced.
  4. Metabolism: Benzene is metabolized in the liver to form reactive intermediates that can bind to DNA and proteins, leading to genetic mutations and cellular damage. This process contributes to its carcinogenic effects.
  5. Long-Term Health Effects: Even low levels of benzene exposure over extended periods can pose significant health risks. Chronic exposure can lead to cumulative damage to various organs and an increased risk of developing serious health conditions, including cancer and blood disorders.

Due to its hazardous nature, regulatory agencies around the world have established strict guidelines and regulations to limit exposure to benzene in occupational settings, the environment, and consumer products. Efforts to minimize benzene exposure include engineering controls, personal protective equipment, and substitution with less hazardous alternatives whenever possible.

Benzene Cancer? Contact Dr. Malik Law Firm for help

If you or a loved one have been exposed to benzene and developed a form of leukemia or other blood related disease such as acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), you should contact us immediately.

Benzene leukemia cancer side effect Information and commentary provided by Dallas Fort Worth Personal Injury Attorney Dr. Shezad Malik. The Dr. Shezad Malik Law Firm can be contacted in Dallas at 214-390-3189.

If you or a loved one has been injured from Benzene exposure, please fill out our contact card for a free consultation.

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