Former Employee Awarded Compensation for Exposure to Benzene

A jury in Texas has awarded a man suffering from a variant of leukemia $8.2 million compensation for exposure to benzene contained in paints and thinners.

Between 1973 and 1996, Virgil Hood worked as a painter for Timpte Trailers – a manufacturer of semi-trailers – and Continental Airlines. Nearly every day during his working life, Virgil was exposed to benzene contained in paints and paint thinners, manufactured by E.I. Du Pont De Nemours (Du Pont).

In 2012 at age 57, Virgil was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) – a condition which effects the production of the blood cells, and which invariably deteriorates into acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Virgil has undergone chemotherapy for his condition and a bone marrow transplant. He has suffered three bouts of pneumonia and temporary blindness due to the side effects of the medication he has been given to prevent his body rejecting the new bone marrow.

Once the cause of his condition had been identified as the toxins contained in the Du Pont paint products, Virgil sought legal advice and claimed compensation for exposure to benzene – alleging in his legal action that Du Pont had been aware since 1938 that benzene exposure causes bone marrow disease, and that in 1954 the company actually advised other paint manufacturers to remove benzene from their products.

The claim for compensation for exposure to benzene went to the 160th Judicial District Court of Dallas County in Texas, where it was heard by a jury before the Honorable Jim Jordan. During the hearing, the jury was told that Du Pont had failed to warn about the carcinogenic effects of benzene and that, in 1975, it had actually misled OHSA about safe exposure levels for workers.

After a two-week hearing, the jury found in Virgil´s favor and awarded him $6.7 million compensation for exposure to benzene for his pain and suffering – liability for which was divided 80 percent Du Pont and 20 percent Timpte Trailers – and $1.5 million punitive damages against Du Pont.

Speaking after the award of compensation for exposure to benzene, one of Virgil´s legal team commented: “What is most gratifying to us about this verdict is the impact it will have not just for the Hood family, but for the thousands of other families in America affected by benzene-related MDS/AML. For decades, the manufacturers of benzene-contaminated products have attempted to deny their accountability for injuring hard-working Americans.”