Articles Posted in Toxic Torts

2006-02-13_Drop_before_impactA carcinogenic chemical discovered in the water supply of Hinkley, California almost thirty years ago is now turning up in increased concentrations elsewhere in the United States. The chemical at issue is known as chromium-6 – the same chemical compound that legal clerk Erin Brockovich famously discovered in her hometown’s water supply – and it is present at potentially unsafe levels in the drinking water of approximately 218 million people. The report was completed by the Environmental Working Group and was released last week and found that Los Angeles’s water supply (along with Phoenix, Arizona, St. Louis, Missouri, and Houston, Texas) had some of the highest levels of chromium-6 in the nation.

What is Chromium-6 and What are its Risks?

Chromium-6 is a heavy metal that is used in the steel-making process as well as energy production. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies it as an “emerging contaminant.” This requires utility companies to monitor for the presence of chromium-6 but the utility company is not required to limit the metal’s presence to a specific amount. This despite the conclusion of the National Toxicology Program that chromium-6 was a “known human carcinogen” and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s conclusion that chromium-6 to be associated with cancers of the respiratory system and/or gastrointestinal system.

Car crashes can have many terrible consequences that may impact automobile occupants and bystanders alike.  One consequence that many people don’t think about is the link between car crashes and gas leaks.  Gas leaks can be silent killers, poisoning the air and creating the risk of horrific explosions.  As a San Francisco gas leak injury lawyer, Attorney Brod knows these incidents are far more common than people might imagine.  He and his team believe in helping the injured and/or mourning by holding the responsible parties accountable for the consequences of their actions.  We bring personal injury suits and/or wrongful death claims in Northern California in cases of car accidents, gas leaks, and cases that involve a dangerous combination of both.

Auto Accidents Causing Gas Leaks: Far Too Common, Far Too Dangerous

CBS SF reports that fire crews were called to the 2200 block of Story Road in East San Jose on Sunday due to reports of a gas leak.  Accordgaslineing to San Jose Fire Department Capt. Brad Cloutier, the leak was the result of a motor vehicle crash.  Officials evacuated numerous buildings and homes located on Story Road and Amador Drive.

At the Brod Law Firm, we are concerned with the health and safety of all who live in and visit Northern California.  We believe wholeheartedly in “Prevention First” and we would much rather see accidents avoided than see clients after the fact.  Still, we are also committed to victims.  We represent people who are injured or grieving because of the actions (or inaction) of a negligent person or careless company.  Our dual commitment can be seen in our work as an Oakland refinery accident law firm.  We advocate for refinery safety in the hopes of preventing refinery accidents.  We also represent people injured in refinery fires, harmed by toxic gases released from area refineries, or otherwise injured because a refinery failed to take preventative measures.

Report Criticizes Tesoro Refinery for “Safety Culture Deficiencies”

Earlier this week, ABC7 reported on the release of a new federal report that criticizes officials at Tesoro Martinez Refinery for promoting a lax safety culture.  The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (“CSB”) cited 15 separate acid spills at refinerythe refinery during a five-year span including the 2014 spill during which two refinery employees were burned and some 84,000 pounds of sulfuric acid were released.  According to the CSB’s chairwoman, “While these incidents may appear to be isolated events, they are indicative of safety culture deficiencies at the Tesoro Martinez Refinery.”  Likewise, one of the lead investigators suggested that sampling systems used by the refinery “routinely exposed operators to avoidable risk.”

Clean air is essential to life.  Reliable energy may not be the same type of basic building block, but it is nonetheless essential to our modern way of living in 2016.  At the Brod Law Firm, we believe that we should be able to have both clean air and reliable energy.  As an Oakland industrial pollution law firm, we advocate for Bay Area residents sickened by toxic pollution from oil refineries and other industrial sources.

Tesoro to Spend Millions to Improve Refinery Emissions as Part of Settlement Agreement

This week, KRON4 reported that the Tesoro refinery in Martinez is one of six company locations covered by a recently announced federal court settlement.  Tesoro has agreed to pay $425 million in order to settle a Department of Justice (“DOJ”) lawsuit charging the company with violating the Clean Air Act and other regulations.  The Texas-based company will pay $403 million to improve equipmpoisonent used to control dangerous air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic companies.  Additionally, Tesoro agreed to pay $10.45 million in civil penalties and spend $12.2 million on projects designed to mitigate the impact of air pollution at the community level.  The latter payment includes $1 million aimed at enabling the Mount Diablo Unified School District to purchase at least four new school buses so it can retire older buses that use polluting diesel fuel and replace them with buses that burn cleaner compressed natural gas.

poisonBreathing is one of the most fundamental life-sustaining activities and one we typically do with very little forethought.  A fresh breath of air can not only nourish our bodies, but also center our minds.  Yet, far too often, our air is contaminated by a range of different toxins.  Hazardous airborne chemicals, including dangerous substances in the toxic gas released by burning plastics, can be harmful and even deadly.  As an Oakland toxic exposure law firm, the Brod Law firm works to get compensation for people made ill by air that was made toxic by human negligence or even intentional acts.

Safety Concerns Following Fire at Plastics Plant in Newark

There were many people expressing concerns about toxic air following a fire in Newark this past Friday.  SFGate reports that it took fire crews two-and-a-half hours to contain a two-alarm fire at a plastics recycling plant on the 6500 block of Smith Avenue.  According to the report, the plant used to house the Western Pacific Pulp and Paper Company which now subleases the building to AHG Recycling, a company that deals with plastics products.

Every day, industrial workers in San Francisco and throughout California are exposed to a number of toxic and hazardous materials. Oftentimes, the cumulative exposure over many years of work cause workers to develop serious illnesses, and in some cases lead to death. Personal injury lawsuits designed to compensate injured workers—sometimes called “toxic torts”—can take many years to work their way through the courts.

Foundry Worker Suffering From Lung Disease Allowed to Sue Metal Parts Manufacturers

Recently the California Supreme Court reinstated a toxic tort case that has been pending for nearly six years. The plaintiff worked for nearly 37 years as a mold maker and machine operator for a metal foundry. As a result of exposure to toxic chemicals at the foundry, the plaintiff said that he developed interstitial pulmonary fibrosis, a serious respiratory disease that results in scar tissue forming on the lungs.

Some of therefinery most important things in our lives are those we rarely think about, like trusting that the brakes will engage when you step on the appropriate pedal.  They can also be some of the most dangerous when things go awry.  Oil and gas lines are among these things.  Oil and gas quite literally fuel our lives.  We trust that the companies that supply these utilities are doing what they should to keep us safe and prevent, among other things, pipeline explosions.  As Californians know all too well, this isn’t always the case and our San Francisco pipeline accident attorney is here to help when tragedy strikes.

Expert Contradicts PG&E’s Interpretation of Rules in Trial Stemming from 2010 San Bruno Explosion

The safety of gas pipelines is in the news this week as Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (“PG&E”) faces criminal charges and fines of up to $562 million alleged violations arising out of the investigation that followed the deadly pipeline explosion in San Bruno in September 2010.  SFGate reports that a government engineer testified this week and contradicted PG&E’s assertion that certain pipeline-related rules are vague and self-defeating.  While PG&E contends that a rule on pipeline pressure is vague and creates odd incentives, the prosecution witness testified that it was far from obscure, had been discussed at public workshops, and was explained on the agency website.  During his opening statement, PG&E’s attorney said the company did its best to comply with vague regulations.

Even if the harm catches you off-guard, the basis of most threats can be seen – the car doing 60mph in a 25mph zone, the slip-potential of water pooling atop a flight of stairs, the driver focused on his phone instead of the road. Carbon monoxide, however, is neither seen nor smelled. It is a dangerous, even deadly, threat. In this entry, our San Francisco poisoning attorney focuses on automobiles and carbon monoxide, a dangerous mix.

Brief Refresher on CO Poisoning poison.png

The Centers for Disease Control explains that carbon monoxide (“CO”) is an odorless, colorless gas that forms in combustion fumes. People and animals are put at risk when CO builds up in an enclosed or semi-enclosed space. As the gas builds in the air, it also begins to replace oxygen in the blood and deprives bodily tissues of the same. Early symptoms of exposure include headache, nausea/vomiting, weakness, chest pain, and confusion. Since these symptoms are vague and mimic many other conditions, diagnosing CO poisoning is tough.

People talk about a “California Lifestyle.” Having met such diverse people in our practice, we’d be hard-pressed to define just one. Any definition would certainly include a mix of sand and surf, land and water, and an active engagement with our environment. Typically healthy, this lifestyle means environmental problems can quickly become health problems. In this post, our Oakland toxic exposure law firm looks at one example — the health impact of sewage spills and sewage contamination.

Oakland Water Main Break Follows a History of Sewage Leaks and Spills

sewagesign.jpgOne way sewage can get into our waterways is following a water main break. While sewage isn’t mentioned, The Oakland Tribune recently reported on three water main breaks that occurred around Oakland on Monday. An East Bay Municipal Water District spokesperson linked the breaks with work on an aqueduct and related pressure changes. The largest break flooded Kingston Road near the Piedmont Border. There was also a break at 47th Avenue and a third at Walavista & Arimo Avenues. An official noted that all of the affected pipes were aging.

paint-bucket-950157-m.jpg
The implied warranty of habitability is a core principle of landlord-tenant law in California, and it gives every tenant the right to a habitable rental unit, which includes protection from weather, working plumbing and electricity, appropriate garbage receptacles, a unit free of rodents and other vermin, etc. And San Francisco landlord-tenant law attorney Gregory J. Brod would note that another important issue that can render a rental unit uninhabitable is the presence of lead or lead-based paint, a danger that should be of particular concern to renters with children.

Disclosure is a key element of regulations on lead in the United States that apply to landlords, which is spelled out in the so-called Lead Disclosure Rule, or Title X Section 1018 of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992. In that federal law, Congress directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency to require the disclosure of known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards prior to the sale or lease of most housing units constructed before 1978. The 1978 date is important because lead was prohibited from all housing build from that date forward. Landlords must include an addendum to a lease, or language within a lease, that includes a Lead Warning Statement and confirms that the landlord has complied with all notification requirements.

A major potential problem with pre-1978 housing, of which there are plenty of examples in the Bay Area’s housing stock, is whether lead that may have been used in the construction process will ever get released in the form of paint chips or dust. In that form, it is particularly toxic to children, especially those age 6 and younger, who may inadvertently inhale or ingest it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are at least 4 million households in the United States that have children living in them who are exposed to high levels of lead. In addition, there are approximately 500,000 children ages 1-5 in this country with blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter, which is the reference level at which the CDC recommends the initiation of public health actions.

paintbrush-on-spattered-background-1439539-m.jpg
In California, a landmark case was decided in December 2013 in which a California Superior Court judge in San Jose ruled that three major current or former paint companies – Sherwin-Williams Co., NL Industries Inc. and ConAgra Grocery Products Co. – must contribute $1.1 billion to a fund that has been earmarked for cleaning up the hazardous substances present in lead paint in hundreds of thousands of homes in California. According to the Wall Street Journal, the three firms would have to decide among themselves how to apportion the cost of the program that has come about as a result of the lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by 10 city and county governments in the state, including San Francisco, Alameda and San Mateo counties.

The cleanup plan does not mandate removal of all lead paint from homes, but it does require work to remove lead from household areas such as window frames and doors where friction may lead to the release of lead dust or chips.
Continue Reading