Article published Friday, February 7, 2003|
Former beryllium worker’s suit ended
Ex-Brush employee accepts
By KELLY LECKER
ELMORE, Ohio - The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday
dismissed a case filed by a former Brush Wellman employee and an
outspoken critic who accused the company of knowingly giving him an
Gary Renwand, Jr., asked that his case be
dismissed because he accepted a settlement from the
Mr. Renwand has beryllium disease, an incurable,
sometimes fatal lung disease caused by inhaling beryllium dust. He
worked for Brush Wellman more than 20 years. Beryllium is a
lightweight metal that is used in the automotive, electronics, and
Mr. Renwand said he was forced to dismiss
the suit because workers cannot receive a compensation package
offered by the federal government if they sue the
"You can’t fight the federal government. And
fighting Brush Wellman is like fighting the federal government. The
way things are going, it was clear we weren’t going to win," said
Mr. Renwand, whose father also has beryllium disease. "I wasn’t in
it just for the money. Brush is in the wrong."
But a Brush
Wellman spokesman said the settlement with Mr. Renwand and those
with other plaintiffs "has been a significant and satisfying
accomplishment for us as it exonerates the company from the reckless
and sensationalized charges that had been made by plaintiffs and
their trial attorneys."
Details of the settlement are
confidential, but two plaintiffs in Brush cases said the company
offered about $3,500 after initially offering $1,000.
spokesman Patrick Carpenter said he could not discuss settlement
details, but said it was "modest." The money is either covered by
insurance or already figured into the company’s finances, so it will
not have a major impact on Brush’s financial results.
Renwand sued Brush in November 1999, a month after he was diagnosed
with beryllium disease. His father was diagnosed in 1993.
his suit, Mr. Renwand maintained the company not only knew about the
risks, but ignored them while putting production ahead of
The courts haven’t seen it that way.
District Court of Appeals in Cleveland agreed with Cuyahoga Common
Pleas Judge Harry Hanna that Brush should not be made to pay for Mr.
Renwand’s illness. The panel ruled that Brush told workers about
beryllium disease, tried to protect them, and kept them informed
about the disease and how many people had it.
appealed his case to the Ohio Supreme Court, but was unsure if the
court would even agree to hear it. In addition, a federal
compensation program that provided $150,000 plus medical expenses
for workers would not be available unless Mr. Renwand dismissed his
An attorney who represents several beryllium victims
said the ruling in Mr. Renwand’s case was discouraging and set a
precedent for all of the cases. A settlement conference was held
last month, and several plaintiffs agreed to take money and drop
The lawsuits are part of a string of cases
against Brush Wellman that the company has either ended in
settlements or has won in decisions across the country. A Brush
spokesman said the company is setting a precedent for other workers
who might consider suing.
Brush expects that by the end of
the first quarter, there will be around 20 cases pending against the
company, and only two involving employees.
significant drop from the end of 2001, when there were 74 lawsuits
involving 187 plaintiffs.
Mr. Renwand said he believes
workers should be able to take the federal compensation and sue the
"I hope somebody takes up this fight, but it doesn’t
look like they would be successful," he said.