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October 05, 2002

 



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Regional News | Article published Friday, October 4, 2002
BERYLLIUM DISEASE
Ex-Brush worker loses wage case

By KELLY LECKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER


CLEVELAND - A judge ruled against a former Brush Wellman employee who said the company agreed to continue paying him after he contracted beryllium disease, then cut off his salary.

The Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge granted summary judgment Wednesday in favor of Brush Wellman and against David Norgard of Manitou Beach, Mich.

The court ruled that under the contract, Mr. Norgard, who worked at Brush’s Elmore plant, was to be paid if he was unable to work or if the company could not provide him with a job.

"The judge ruled he had to work unless he was totally disabled," said Louise Roselle, an attorney for Mr. Norgard.

Mr. Norgard’s attorneys had argued that because of depression, his anger at the company, and the pressure he felt from Brush Wellman, he was not able to work for the company, and that is why he turned down a job they assigned him in 1996 at the Toledo Museum of Art.

The judge disagreed that Mr. Norgard, who was diagnosed with beryllium disease in 1992, was unable to work for Brush and that he held up his end of the contract.

Beryllium is a lightweight material used to make, among other things, nuclear bombs. Breathing it in can cause an incurable, sometimes fatal disease called chronic beryllium disease.

Mr. Norgard’s family and his attorney said he plans to appeal, and that the issue is still that Brush Wellman wrongly cut off his salary.

The court had ruled Friday on some motions in the case, most of which were filed by Brush Wellman, and agreed with the company’s interpretation of the contract. Once the judge ruled in favor of the company’s interpretation with the contract, there wasn’t much evidence to support Mr. Norgard, Ms. Roselle said.

Brush has won a string of lawsuits across the country filed by former or current employees or contractors who contracted beryllium disease.

The company said in a statement that Mr. Norgard and other plaintiffs have been "misled by their attorneys into believing that their cases had merit and would be convincing to a court."

This was one of two lawsuits Mr. Norgard has filed against Brush Wellman. The other is an intentional tort suit accusing Brush Wellman of intentionally exposing Mr. Norgard to conditions that gave him chronic beryllium disease.

A state appeals court threw the case out, ruling that the suit, filed in 1997, has passed its statute of limitations because workers have two years from the time they are diagnosed and have an idea what caused it.

Mr. Norgard’s attorneys took the case to the Ohio Supreme Court, arguing that it was not until 1995 that Mr. Norgard received information that made him believe Brush intentionally withheld information about the causes of chronic beryllium disease.

The Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Norgard. The case is pending.



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