ERJ staff report (TB)
By Miles Moore, Senior Washington Reporter
Beaumont, Texas -- Ashland Inc. is challenging the lawsuit brought in Beaumont district court by a former rubber worker who claims Ashland and some 30 other companies were responsible for his bladder cancer.
Ashland said in its Dec. 5 reply to Boudreaux's Nov. 16 complaint before the 172nd District Court of Texas that:
- William Boudreaux's cancer was caused at least in part by his own negligence;
- Ashland in no way caused his illness; and
- His request for punitive damages is unconstitutional on its face.
From 1966 to 1997, Boudreaux worked as a journeyman machinist-mechanic at the styrene-butadiene rubber plant in Port Neches, Texas, that is now owned by International Specialty Products Inc. (ISP)
Ashland acquired ISP this year.
During these 31 years, the complaint said, Boudreaux was exposed to nitrates, which convert to nitrosamines, extender oils, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, PBNAs and BNAs. At no time during his employment was Boudreaux aware these substances were hazardous to his health, according to the document.
Boudreaux accused the companies of selling â€œdefective and unreasonably dangerousâ€ chemicals to the Port Neches plant, and claims they are guilty of strict liability, negligence and fraudulent concealment.
Jean Boudreaux, Boudreaux's wife, also is a plaintiff in the suit, claiming loss of consortium. The couple seeks individual, joint and several damages against the defendants, both compensatory and punitive, in an unspecified amount.
In its court filing, Ashland listed a long series of objections to Boudreaux's complaint.
For one thing, Boudreaux didn't give Ashland fair notice of his claims under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, according to Ashland.
Boudreaux's illness was not caused by any product or chemical made or sold by Ashland, and his own negligence was at least a contributing factor, the company said. Furthermore, Boudreaux was not an employee of the plant per se, but of an independent contractor that legally had responsibility for Boudreaux's safety, it said.
Any award of punitive damages is barred under both the US and Texas Constitutions, Ashland claimed. It would violate Ashland's due process rights, the excessive fines clause of the Eighth Amendment and other provisions of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the company said.
Besides Ashland, the listed defendants in the suit include Bridgestone, DuPont, Michelin, Arkema Inc., Atlantic Richfield Co., Cabot Corp., Chemtura Corp., Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. L.P., Chevron USA. Inc., ConocoPhillips Co. the Dow Chemical Co., ExxonMobil Corp., General Electric Co., Goodrich Corp., Huntsman Petrochemical Corp., MeadWestvaco Corp., MeadWestvaco Texas L.P., Nalco Co., R.T. Vanderbilt Co. Inc., Rohm and Haas Co., Shell Chemical L.P., Shell Oil Co., Sunoco Inc., Texaco Inc., Texaco Refining and Marketing Inc., TRMI Holdings Inc., Union Carbide Corp., Uniroyal Inc., and Union Oil co. of California.
From Tire Business Rubber & Plastics News Automotive News (A Crain publication)