| Article published January 31, 2002|
Beryllium trial cites words of
By JAMES DREW
COLUMBUS - An attorney representing Brush
Wellman used the words of David Norgard, who contracted chronic
beryllium disease at the companyís plant near Elmore, to try to
convince the Ohio Supreme Court that the statute of limitations ran
out before he sued.
Jeff Sutton read part of a sworn
statement that Mr. Norgard made about the last day he worked for
Brush, after being diagnosed with the debilitating lung illness in
"On that day, I was extremely angry, mad, frustrated,
sad with Brush," Mr. Norgard said. "I felt betrayed as I was told
that Brush always knew I had [chronic beryllium disease] over the
years but never told me."
Mr. Sutton told the Ohio Supreme
Court yesterday that Mr. Norgardís words are proof that the two-year
statute of limitations for filing an intentional tort lawsuit was
triggered in 1992. Thatís when Mr. Norgard was diagnosed, knew it
was work-related, and had enough information to accuse Brush of
intentionally harming him, Mr. Sutton said.
Mr. Norgard, 46,
and his wife, Theresa, sued Brush in 1997, alleging the company
intentionally had exposed him to conditions at the Elmore plant that
led to his getting chronic beryllium disease.
County judge and a state appeals court sided with Brush, ruling the
statute of limitations ran out on the Norgards in 1994. They
appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Yesterday, Mr. Norgardís
attorneys told the justices that the appeals court misinterpreted
state law and that the two-year statute of limitations started to
tick in 1995, when Mr. Norgard discovered "facts" from an Arizona
attorney supporting allegations that Brush intentionally withheld
information about the causes of chronic beryllium
"He had no reason to know that his employer had
intentionally caused his illness until 1995," Mr. DeMarco told the
seven-member court, which asked both sides several questions about
previous decisions on intentional tort disputes.
Courtís decision, expected within a few months, could have a big
impact on workers with occupational diseases who have sued or plan
to sue their employers, Mr. Norgard said after oral
The Norgards are seeking compensatory and punitive
damages in excess of $25,000.