$21.4M Benzene Verdict for Deaths of Tire Workers, Brothers

A jury sided with the families of two brothers who died of cancer resulting from exposure to benzene-containing rubber solvent.

LOS ANGELES –– After three days of deliberation, a $21.4 million verdict against Union Oil Company was awarded by a Contra Costa Superior Court jury to the families of two brothers. The brothers each died of cancer linked to benzene exposure that occurred while they were working for a tire manufacturing plant.

The brothers, Gary and Randy Eaves, both worked several decades on and off from the 1970s to the 2000s for Cooper Tire & Rubber Company in Texarkana, Arkansas. The trial took place in Contra Costa County, the locale of Chevron headquarters because Chevron merged with Unocal which was formerly known as Union Oil.

Gary worked as a green tire hauler and handler and later a green tire spray booth operator, both in the plant’s curing department. Randy worked as a truck-tire bias machine operator and a first stage radial tire builder. Each man was routinely exposed to benzene-containing solvents and benzene vapors on the job.

Union Oil manufactured the benzene-containing rubber solvent that the brothers used to perform their duties at the tire plant. Benzene is a known carcinogen linked to blood and bone marrow cancers, such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML).

In June 2013, Gary was diagnosed with NHL, dying from the cancer in 2015. Later that same year, Randy was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome which progressed into AML. Randy died from his cancer in 2018. Both men were just 59 years old when initially diagnosed.

Union Oil allegedly failed to warn the Eaves brothers about the dangers of working with the benzene-containing solvents. Plant workers were never advised to wear respirators or protective clothing. The jury agreed with the Eaves plaintiffs’ claim that the oil company knew that the solvents they sold contained benzene. The Eaves plaintiffs also contended that defendant Union Oil knew, or should have known, that benzene exposure was extremely hazardous and cancer-causing.

The jury delivered its verdict on March 29, 2019, awarding $21,385,000 to the families of Gary Eaves and Randy Eaves. The jury found Union Oil 58 percent liable for Gary’s and Randy’s cancers and subsequent deaths.

The families were represented at trial by Rajeev Mittal of Waters Kraus Paul & Siegel, Mary Alexander of Mary Alexander & Associates, P.C., and Scott Frieling of Allen Stewart, P.C.

The case is Case No. C16-00815, Regina Eaves et al. v. Ashland Inc., et al., Contra Costa Superior Court, California.

About Waters Kraus Paul & Siegel

Waters Kraus Paul & Siegel is a national plaintiffs’ law firm devoted to helping families in personal injury and wrongful death cases involving asbestos, benzene, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, birth defects caused by toxic chemical exposures in commercial agriculture and semiconductor chip manufacturing. We also represent plaintiffs in qui tam whistleblower matters. Our attorneys have won record-setting verdicts, negotiated monumental settlements, and established ground-breaking new law in cases involving toxic exposure and defective products. Based in Dallas, Texas, with offices in California, Louisiana and by appointment in Illinois, Waters Kraus Paul & Siegel has participated in the representation of families from all fifty states and many foreign countries, as well as foreign governments.

See the Case Fact Sheet.

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