BAY AREA, CA — A Contra Costa County jury has awarded $21.4 million to the families of two men who died as a result of long term exposure to known cancer-causing chemical benzene while working for Union Oil, a subsidiary of San Ramon-based petroleum company Chevron.
The trial lasted over four weeks with the jury deliberating for about three days before coming back with a verdict March 29.
The families of Gary Eaves and his brother Randy Eaves filed a lawsuit against Union Oil which made the benzene-containing rubber solvent the brothers regularly worked with at their jobs in a tire manufacturing plant. The brothers were longtime employees of the plant and exposed to large amounts of benzene in their work.
Gary was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in June of 2013 at the age of just 59. Randy was first diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia in June of 2016, also at the age of 59.
Union Oil, which became a Chevron subsidiary in 2005, was accused of failing to warn Gary or Randy of the potential dangers of benzene exposure. The jury sided with the plaintiffs who contended that the oil company knew that the solvents they sold contained benzene. The plaintiffs also contended the defendant knew, or should have known, that benzene exposure was extremely hazardous and cancer-causing.
“We do not believe that (Union Oil) had any role in the claimed injuries and we are evaluating the jury’s decision and the court’s rulings in this matter,” Chevron said in a statement regarding the case.
“This oil company has been held accountable for their negligence in putting profits before people. The tremendous verdict will help ensure protection of consumers as it sends a message that any company that fails to warn about toxic chemicals in the products they sell, such as benzene which causes cancer, will be held responsible,” the families’ co-counsel, Mary Alexander, said.
Chevron has not indicated whether it plans to appeal the verdict.