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Worker Develops Multiple Myeloma from Benzene in Paints and Lacquer Thinner


Settlement:   $2,146,000

Case Name: Frank and Amy Sundquist v. BP West Coast, et al.

Court: Los Angeles Superior Court

Case No: BC 362023

Judges: Victoria Chaney, Ann Jones and Jane Johnson


Plaintiff Attorneys

Raphael Metzger

Greg Coolidge

Brian Fitzgerald

Metzger Law Group

Long Beach, CA


Defense Attorneys 

Thomas C. Hurrell

Jill A. Wood

Hurrell & Cantrall

(PPG Industries, Inc., and

The Sherwin-Williams Co.)


Roger M. Mansukhani

Brian M. Ledger

Gordon & Rees

(P.B.E. Warehouse, Inc.)


Deidre Cohen Katz

Tina Van Dam

Walsworth, Franklin, Bevins

& McCall  (National Oak

Distributors, Inc. and

International Autobody

Marketing Group)


Douglas J. Pahl

Damien A. Decost

Kern and Wooley

(Cumberland Products, Inc.)


Richard A. Dongell

Jason M. Booth

Dongell Lawrence Finney

(Berg Lacquer Company)


Lawrence P. Riff

Colleen O’Brien

Steptoe & Johnson

(Cross-Defendants Ashland, Inc. and Univar USA Inc.)


Facts –  From 1988 to 1998, Plaintiff worked for Freeman’s Auto Parts & Paint Store, mixing paint and using lacquer thinners to clean his work area and to clean his hands.  In late 2006, at the age of 43, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer that is usually diagnosed at about age 70 and is quite rare in patients under age 50.


Plaintiff’s Contentions – Plaintiff claimed that exposure to benzene in the paints and lacquer thinners caused his multiple myeloma.

Plaintiff contended that Defendants’ paints and thinners were defective because they did not warn that they contained benzene and could cause cancer.   Plaintiff also contended that the products were defectively designed because Defendants did not remove the benzene from them.


Defendants’ Contentions – Defendants contended that they did not need to warn of the presence of benzene in their products, because it was only present in trace amounts.  Defendants also contended that the cause of multiple myeloma is unknown, that benzene exposure does not cause multiple myeloma, that the trace amounts of benzene in the paints and thinners were harmless, and that if benzene in their products caused Plaintiff’s multiple myeloma, Plaintiff and his employer were responsible because Plaintiff did not wear gloves and his employer did not provide him ventilation or respiratory protection.


Injuries/Damages – Plaintiff was prescribed chemotherapy and underwent a stem cell transplant.  His past medical expenses totaled about $1.15 million. Plaintiff also claimed general damages.


Pretrial Motions – Judge Jones denied Defendants’ motions to exclude the testimony of Plaintiffs’ expert witnesses.  Judge Johnson denied Plaintiffs’ motions to exclude the testimony of Defendants’ expert witnesses.


Result. After several mediation sessions and a Mandatory Settlement Conference, the case settled for a total of $2,146,000.  This is believed to be the largest settlement to date of a benzene-multiple myeloma case nationwide.


Mediator Eleanor Barr, ADR


MSC Judge Emilie Elias


Plaintiff’s Experts

Roger Wabeke, CIH

Industrial Hygiene/Warnings

Dearborn, MI


Robert Harrison, M.D.

Occupational Medicine

UC San Francisco


Brian Durie, M.D.

Multiple Myeloma

Los Angeles


Peter Formuzis, Ph.D.


Santa Ana, CA


Sara Guentz, R.N., B.S.N.

Life Care Planning

Long Beach, CA

Defendants’  Experts

Brian Daly

Industrial Hygiene

Torrance, CA


Howard Spielman, CIH

Industrial Hygiene

Los Angeles, CA


Lawrence Keller

Industrial Hygiene Murrysville, PA


Jerry Purswell, Ph.D.


Colorado Springs, CO


Robert James, Ph.D.


Tallahassee, FL


David Pyatt, Ph.D.


Denver, CO


Seymour Grufferman, M.D.


Santa Fe, NM


Robert S. Negrin, M.D.


Stanford, CA


David Weiner


Los Angeles, CA