Award of $1 Million in Case Involving Welding Fumes

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Welding Fume Lawsuits

An Illinois jury awarded Lawrence Elam, a 65–year old man with Parkinson’s disease, $1 million based on his exposure to manganese–containing welding fumes. Three welding rod companies were named in his lawsuit—Lincoln Electric, Hobart Brothers and the BOC Group. The year was 2003, and after decades, it was the first successful attempt to make welding rod manufacturers responsible for their defective products (Elam v. Lincoln Electric Company, et al., IL 3rd Judicial Circuit, Madison County, IL; Oct. 28, 2003).

The jury had concluded that excess exposure to manganese could lead to Parkinson’s disease, a nervous system disorder resulting in tremors, slow movements, body stiffness, and poor balance. Dr. Brad Racette testified that patients who work as welders tend to develop symptoms of Parkinson’s disease about 15 years earlier than other Parkinson’s patients. (See his article at Neurology 2001 Jan 9; 56(1): 8–13). A neurologist in Milwaukee, Dr. Paul Nausieda, spoke about a research project with 20,000 welders. Ten percent of the welders showed signs of Parkinson’s disease from welding fumes. The rate of Parkinson’s disease in the general population is about 1%.

Mr. Elam’s lawyers pointed out that warnings about welding rods were contained on the welding cartons or containers, not on each welding product itself. This made it very likely that a welder would not read the warnings, and that welding assistants and others working near welding fumes would not be notified about the contents of the welding rod.

The Future of Welding Rod Litigation

In addition to welding rod manufacturers, distributors and suppliers of welding rods may be liable for damages in future lawsuits. Welders may also take action against employers who provide unsafe working conditions. Insurers may be required to indemnify businesses for their losses when workers are exposed to manganese in welding fumes, according to one analysis (Litigation Watch: Welding Rods, May 2004, p. 4–6).

Currently, lawyers throughout the nation are filing cases for welders suffering from Parkinson’s disease, diseases related to Parkinson’s disease (“Parkinsonism” or “Parkinsonian syndrome”), or from manganism (manganese poisoning). If you are a welder or have worked around welding fumes, and have seen a doctor about movement or balance problems, please feel free to contact us to learn more about your legal choices. We have over 20 years experience in successfully litigating medical/legal cases involving toxic substances and are currently representing welders who have been injured by welding fumes.