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Chemical worker with cancer loses case against Exxon, subcontractors


A former chemical industry worker failed to show that Exxon Mobil and the subcontractors he worked for were intentionally negligent or that their behavior caused his cancer.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans unanimously affirmed on Tuesday a district court’s ruling granting summary judgment to the companies after agreeing that the worker’s claims were barred by the exclusivity provision of the Louisiana Workers Compensation Act. The case is Million v. Exxon Mobil Corp.

James Million worked in the chemical industry for 40 years, spending at least a portion of his career working for two Exxon Mobil subcontractors. In 2016, he was diagnosed with cancer and a pulmonary embolism that he claimed were a result of his exposure to hazardous chemicals, including benzene and vinyl chloride, during his employment.

He and his wife filed a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil and the subcontractors in district court in Louisiana, alleging negligence and strict liability.

The subcontractors filed motions for summary judgment, contending that Mr. Million’s claims were barred by the exclusivity provision of the state workers compensation act. Although Mr. Million alleged that the subcontractors intentionally caused his exposure to toxic chemicals, the district court held that he failed to show any genuine issue of material fact that any act by the subcontractors fell under the workers comp act’s intentional tort exemption and granted summary judgment.

Exxon also moved for summary judgment on the basis that Mr. Million failed to provide medical evidence to prove causation for his cancer, which was also granted.

Mr. Million appealed, but the appellate court affirmed the district court’s decision. Although Mr. Million alleged that the subcontractors failed to provide adequate safety gear, ensure proper ventilation of work areas or properly train employees, the appellate court held that even if the allegations were accepted as true, they would amount to negligence, not intentional torts necessary to leap the exclusivity bar of the act.

The appellate court likewise affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Exxon, noting that Mr. Million did not provide required medical testimony to show proof of causation.



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