DALLAS (CN) - A Texas jury awarded a cancer-stricken man $8.2 million for exposure to benzene and other chemicals in DuPont's paint, thinner and cleaning products.
Virgil Hood, 60, sued DuPont in 2013 in Dallas County Court for negligence and product liability after he was diagnosed with leukemia.
From 1973 to 1996 Hood worked for Timpte Trailers, a Colorado semi-trailer maker, and then Continental Airlines, where job duties included cleaning and washing equipment with solvents, mixing paints, painting, performing engine work and fueling ground support equipment.
After a two-week trial, a jury on Tuesday awarded Hood $8.2 million from DuPont: $6.7 million in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages.
DuPont is responsible for 80 percent of the amount and Timpte for 20 percent.
Hood's attorney, Peter Kraus with Waters Kraus & Paul in Dallas, said DuPont had been aware since 1938 that benzene exposure causes bone marrow disease, and had warned others to remove it from paints by 1954.
"But DuPont chose not to take the benzene out of its products or to warn workers like Mr. Hood about the hazards," Krause said Thursday. "Instead, in 1975, DuPont marched one of its executives before OSHA to deceive the government about cancer hazards of its paint products."
Co-counsel Suzi Chester said Hood has "been fighting the disease every day" since his diagnosis.
"Mr. Hood received grueling chemotherapy treatments and after being placed on a waitlist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, he underwent a bone marrow transplant that resulted in horrific complications, including three bouts of pneumonia and temporary blindness," Chester said. "At one point his weight dropped to 110 pounds, but Virgil kept fighting."
Krause said manufacturers of benzene-contaminated products have tried "to deny their accountability for injury hard-working Americans" for decades.
"First, the manufacturers ignored the scientific and medical data; then they chose not to warn workers of the undeniable risks; and then DuPont even went so far as to lie to the American government about the true dangers of these products," Krause said in a statement. "This verdict reaffirms what we at Waters Kraus & Paul have known all along - that ordinary Americans care deeply about living in a world that is safe for themselves, their families and their neighbors."
DuPont spokesman Daniel A. Turner said Thursday evening the company is "disappointed in the decision" and "will pursue an appeal."
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