Jury Gets First Welding Fumes Case

June 26, 2006

A Cleveland jury began deliberating last Wednesday in the case of a former welder with a hand tremor, the first of thousands of similar cases nationally alleging welding fumes can cause Parkinson’s disease.
The case has drawn wide attention because of the precedent it could set for other trials.

Ernesto G. Solis, 57, claims years of exposure to welding fumes at his job as a civilian maintenance worker at a Navy base in Corpus Christi, Texas, damaged his health because of exposure to manganese within welding rods. Scientific research has been at odds whether such exposure can lead to Parkinson’s, a neurological illness diminishes movement and speech.

Solis’ lawyer, Scott Bickford, told jurors in closing arguments that his client suffers from manganese poisoning, which has symptoms similar to Parkinson’s.

About 3,800 cases are consolidated before U.S. District Judge Kathleen O’Malley in Cleveland. The multidistrict litigation began in 2003. There have been court decisions in other cases, including at the state level, outside of the consolidated cases.

Defendants in the Solis case are Lincoln Electric Holdings Inc., Hobart Bros. Co., TDY Industries Inc. and the ESAB Group, all makers of welding rods.

Bickford told the 10-person jury that warning labels on welding rod packages were not sufficient to warn welders of the dangers of welding rods.

Defense lawyer Richard Sarver told the jury the evidence shows that Solis does not suffer from a consistent tremor and that his problem is not linked to welding.

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