Motorola Must Face Claims for Birth Defects

CHICAGO( CN) — An Illinois appeals court revived a lawsuit accusing Motorola of “willful and wanton misconduct” that caused numerous employees’ children to suffer severe birth defects in utero from their fathers’ exposure to toxic chemicals at its semiconductor plants.

Marcus Ledeaux and 48 other plaintiffs sued the electronics manufacturer in Cook County Court, which found their claims barred by workers’ compensation laws.

But a unanimous three-judge panel of the Chicago-based First District Court of Appeals reversed and remanded on Feb. 20 in an opinion by Justice Mary Anne Mason.

Jeremy Hardison and Sarina Finzer were two of the children born with severe birth defects. Their fathers worked at Motorola semiconductor plants in Texas and Arizona, respectively.

The plaintiffs sought damages for negligence, strict liability, willful and wanton misconduct, breach of an assumed duty, and loss of child consortium.

They claimed that though Motorola instituted hygienic procedures in its semiconductor factory, the fathers were still exposed to toxic chemicals. The plaintiffs appealed the trial court’s finding that they had not proved facts that would entitle them to relief.

Justice Mason wrote that the “plaintiffs properly pled a cause of action for negligence and willful and wanton misconduct under Arizona and Texas law and loss of child consortium under Arizona law.”

The fathers manufactured microchips, wafers and semiconductor boards. Sarina was born with a club foot, while Jeremy was born with an underdeveloped jaw.

Mason found that the families’ claims are not barred by workers’ compensation law.

“The minor plaintiffs’ birth defects are injuries personal to them that exist apart from and regardless of a work-related injury sustained by their parent,” she wrote in the 24-page opinion.

Motorola argued that fathers and mothers of children with birth defects should be treated differently because the child is not in utero in the workplace.

Mason wrote: “Motorola is willing to concede the viability of a claim for birth defects suffered by the child of a female employee exposed to toxic chemicals in the workplace, while denying the viability of the same claim by a child of a male employee exposed to the same chemicals.”

She added that if an injury through a mother’s exposure to chemicals is foreseeable by Motorola, “it stands to reason it could foresee that a male employee’s impaired sperm could produce the same result.”

Motorola has not responded to an email request for comment.

Presiding Justice P. Scott Neville Jr. and Justice Michael Hyman concurred.

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