The son and widow of a deceased former Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Co. employee are suing, claiming workplace exposure to benzene-containing materials ultimately led to an illness that claimed his life.
Dewane D. Frase of Phillips, as special administrator of his father’s estate, and Carole L. Frase of Eau Claire have filed a product liability suit in Eau Claire County Court against Ashland Chemical Co., Dublin, Ohio; BP Products North America, Naperville, Ill.; Exxon Mobil Corp., Shell Chemical and Shell Oil Co., all of Houston; Four Star Oil and Gas Co., Austin, Texas; Sunoco of Newtown Square, Penn.; and Texaco Downstream Properties and Union Oil Co. of California, both of San Ramon, Calif.
The suit is seeking a judgment for damages, pre-judgment interest, the plaintiffs’ costs and any other relief the court deems just.
None of the defendants have yet filed answers to the claims against them.
According to court records:
From about 1952 to 1992, Douglas Frase was employed at the tire manufacturing facility in Eau Claire.
On April 1, 2016, Frase was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes, and he died as a result of the disease on Nov. 7, 2016. Frase was 82.
Myelodysplastic syndromes is a group of disorders caused by poorly formed blood cells or ones that don’t work properly, according to MayoClinic.org. Some myelodysplastic syndromes have no known cause, and others are caused by exposure to toxic chemicals, such as benzene.
During his employment at the tire company, Frase worked throughout the plant in multiple departments and positions, including as a tire builder and/or loader, treadman and conveyor attendant and in assembly and installation, and storing and curing.
“Frase worked with and was exposed to toxicologically significant levels of defendants’ benzene, benzene derivatives, rubber solvents, solvent blends and other toxic and hazard chemicals … used directly an indirectly in the manufacturing and cleaning of certain equipment and materials.” As a direct result of that, Frase contracted myelodysplastic syndrome.
Myelodysplastic syndromes rarely cause signs or symptoms in the early stages, according to MayoClinic.org. However, in time myelodysplastic syndromes might cause fatigue, shortness of breath, unusual paleness, easy or unusual bruising or bleeding and frequent infections.
The “defendants are liable for designing, producing, manufacturing, distributing, selling, supplying, delivering, handling, marketing, advertising, instructing and/or placing into the stream of commerce products that were defective, hazardous and/or carcinogenic.
The “defendants were aware, or should have been aware, of the dangers associated with exposure to the benzene-containing materials at the premises where (Frase) worked.”
“The defendants failed to timely and fully inform (Frase or his) employers of the dangers associated with occupational exposure to these chemicals, and this failure caused (him) to work with or in proximity to hazardous substances without the necessary precautions to avoid dangerous exposures to these chemicals.”
The civil suit isn’t the first of its kind filed in Eau Claire County.
A number of former Uniroyal employees and their family members and beneficiaries filed suit in 2006, alleging the former employees’ injuries and deaths resulted from exposure to benzene in the Eau Claire plant that went out of production in 1992. A second suit was filed in 2009.
The suits were settled in 2016 weeks before a trial was scheduled to begin.
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