CLEAR
47°
more weather




Friday,
May 10, 2002

 



Tips on searching


Browse Last 30 Days
The Blade Archives
AP Archives


Latest News
Sports
Business
Arts & Entertainment
Opinion
Religion
Columnists
Special Reports
Weather
AP Wire
Photos of the Day
Ohio Lottery
Michigan Lottery


General
Homes
Autos
Jobs
Boats/Recreation
Celebrations
Legal Notices
Church Directory
Personals

Obituaries
Events Calendar
NIE
Directories
Forums
TV Listings
Movie Showtimes
Horoscopes


Contests
Calculators
KidZone
Mud Hens Web Cam


Set As Homepage
Subscriber Services
Email Newsletter
Advertise
About Us
Contact Us
Help & FAQs

Regional News | Article published Thursday, May 9, 2002
Beryllium victim wins court ruling
Decision reviving Brush suit could aid other Ohio workers

By JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF


COLUMBUS - The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday gave new life to a lawsuit that a chronic beryllium disease victim filed against Brush Wellman.

The 4-3 decision also could have a major impact on workers with occupational diseases who have sued or plan to sue their employers in Ohio.

The Supreme Court overturned a state appeals court ruling that said the statute of limitations had run out in 1997 when David Norgard and his wife, Theresa, filed an intentional tort lawsuit against Brush, a Cleveland-based firm.

Mr. Norgard, who worked at Brush’s plant near Elmore and was diagnosed with the debilitating lung disease in 1992, claimed that the state’s two-year statute of limitations on civil lawsuits started to tick in October, 1995, not when he was diagnosed with the disease three years earlier.

Mr. Norgard said it was in 1995 that he discovered "facts" from an Arizona attorney supporting allegations that Brush intentionally withheld information about the causes of chronic beryllium disease.

A one-vote majority of the state Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Norgard.

"By applying the ... rule as we do, we take away the advantage of employers who conceal harmful information until it is too late for their employees to use it," wrote Justice Francis Sweeney, a Democrat.

Others in the majority were Democrat Alice Robie Resnick and Republicans Andy Douglas and Paul Pfeifer. The dissenters were three Republicans: Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, Evelyn Stratton, and Deborah Cook.

A Brush spokesman said the company "vehemently disagrees" with the court’s 4-3 decision.

"This ruling is limited to a statute of limitations interpretation," said Patrick Carpenter, Brush’s director of corporate communications. "The court was not asked nor did it rule on any issues of fact regarding occupational exposure to beryllium or alleged ‘wrongdoing’ by Brush Wellman Inc."

Beryllium is a lightweight metal used in the defense, automotive, and electronics industries. Beryllium dust can cause an incurable, fatal lung disease. Brush Wellman processes beryllium, long used in nuclear weapons.

Yesterday’s decision means the Norgards’ lawsuit against Brush will move forward in Cuyahoga County, where the company is based.

The couple, who live in Manitou Beach, Mich., are seeking compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $25,000.

"Hopefully, the decision has set a precedent and opened up some doors for a lot of injured workers across the state," Mr. Norgard said yesterday. "That is even more exciting than my own case."

Attorneys representing the Norgards are handling about 30 intentional tort lawsuits against Brush in Ohio.

Mr. Carpenter said it was unclear if yesterday’s Supreme Court decision would trigger more lawsuits against Brush and other Ohio manufacturers, but he referred to it as "more slop for the trial lawyers."

Justice Cook accused the four justices in the majority - frequent targets of business interests - of creating a new rule for intentional tort lawsuits.

She said case law is clear that the statute of limitations clock starts to tick when employees are aware of their injury and its likely cause - not when they realize they have a right to sue.

She said for Mr. Norgard, the clock expired in 1994 - two years after he knew he suffered from chronic beryllium disease and it was likely caused by working at the Brush plant near Elmore.

Mr. Norgard sued Brush in 1997, alleging that the company intentionally had exposed him to conditions at the Elmore plant that led to his getting chronic beryllium disease.

The Supreme Court’s decision makes it clear that the two-year statute of limitations starts when workers discover their injury and the "wrongful conduct of the employer," said Louise Roselle, a Cincinnati attorney representing the Norgards.

Mr. Carpenter, the Brush spokesman, said the company will ask a Cuyahoga County judge to dismiss the Norgards’ lawsuit.

In 1999, The Blade published a six-part series documenting a 50-year pattern of misconduct by the federal government and the beryllium industry, including Brush-Wellman - wrongdoing that caused the injuries and deaths of dozens of workers.

Among the findings: Government and industry officials knowingly allowed workers to be exposed to unsafe levels of beryllium dust.


More articles on this subject »
Union is leery of beryllium plant uniform contract 01/23/2002

Article features » | Advanced search by keywords »
Printer-friendly version
Forum on this topic
Email to a friend
View the Regional News index
View the Latest News index
Subcategories »
Accidents/Vehicular

City of Toledo

Courts

Crime

Elections

Environment

Fires

Higher Education

K-12 Education

Michigan News

Minority Issues

Obituaries - News

Ohio News

Other

Politics

Regional News

Religion

Suburban News

Toledo mayoral race

Transportation

War on terrorism

Weather

Zoo & Library










©2002 The Blade. Privacy Statement. By using this service, you accept the terms of our visitor agreement: Please read it.

The Toledo Blade Company, 541 N. Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660, (419) 724-6000
To contact a specific department or an individual person, click here.