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Regional News | Article published January 31, 2002
Beryllium trial cites words of worker

By JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF


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 1992.

"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.

A Cuyahoga 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 disease.

"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.

The Supreme 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 arguments.

The Norgards are seeking compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $25,000.

Related Articles Ľ
Brush worker asks relief from time limit 01/30/2002
Union is leery of beryllium plant uniform contract 01/23/2002

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