A federal judge's
dismissal of a lawsuit against manufacturers and
distributors of beryllium used at nuclear weapons plants
in Oak Ridge could mean the dismissal of similar
lawsuits pending before the same judge, lawyers in the
"If the other plaintiffs asserted similar claims in
connection with the same sites, I would think if it's in
the same court and (before) the same judge, I don't see
how those claims would not be disposed of the same way,"
said John Traficonte, litigation counsel for Cabot Corp.
of Pennsylvania. "Logically, they would have to be."
U.S. District Judge James Jarvis' order on Tuesday
granting summary judgment to Cabot, Brush Wellman Inc.
of Ohio, NGK Metal Corp. of Pennsylvania and Ceradyne
Inc. of California dismisses one of 10 lawsuits pending
In the lawsuit brought in 1994 by Y-12 workers Troy
Murphy Morgan, Corky Dean McCarter, Richard Emory Myers
Sr. and Kathleen Beatty and in the other nine lawsuits,
Y-12 or K-25 workers claim they contracted a
debilitating respiratory illness called chronic
beryllium disease or tested positive for beryllium
sensitivity from being exposed to airborne beryllium
dust and fumes while working at the plants.
"In the remaining cases, there are motions filed
similar to the ones filed in Morgan and the court's
ruling should apply to those as well," said Jim Wright,
who represents Ceradyne.
But Wright and other lawyers in the case said they'd
only be guessing if they tried to conclude what effect
the ruling would have on the pending cases. Court
records show, however, that a motion for voluntary
dismissal of all claims against all defendants in one of
the other lawsuits was filed about two weeks after
Jarvis indicated he was granting summary judgment in the
While Jarvis noted his decision in an Aug. 1 order,
the order didn't become final until Tuesday when he
issued a detailed 42-page opinion. Steve Jensen, one of
the lawyers for the workers in the Morgan case and other
cases, said he couldn't comment about pending litigation
because an appeal is possible.
Most of the 10 lawsuits complained that the
manufacturers and distributors, as well as other similar
companies and the federal government, deliberately
concealed for decades the true health risks to those who
worked with the substance.
"Because the government and its contractors were the
only parties in a position to warn the plaintiffs and
protect them from the dangers of beryllium, the
defendants had no duty to warn the plaintiffs," Jarvis
ruled. "The duty was assumed by the United States and
The judge noted Congress recently enacted a
compensation plan entitling plaintiffs and other injured
beryllium workers to receive a $150,000 lump-sum payment
and medical benefits.
Jarvis - like a Jefferson County, Colo., jury during
a trial in a similar case in June - also rejected the
workers' argument that the companies participated in a
50-year conspiracy to keep the actual dangers of
beryllium exposure secret. Patrick Carpenter, a
spokesman for Brush Wellman, said he received word late
Wednesday that the plaintiffs' motion for new trial in
the Colorado case had been denied.
The judge also rejected the workers' arguments on two
"We are extremely pleased that the District Court
granted this motion," Brush Wellman wrote in a
statement. "The Court can be commended for being
thorough and reasoned in evaluating our position that
Brush Wellman was not responsible for the health and
safety of another company's employees."
Laura Ayo may be reached at 865-342-6341 or