Victor S. Woods

CHARLESTON -- As defendants in lung injury litigation begin to fight back in courts across the country, a Charleston attorney in the meantime recently filed three separate silica lawsuits in Kanawha Circuit Court.

Victor S. Woods, an attorney with the Segal Law Firm, filed the suits on behalf of families in Fayette, Cabell and Clay counties.

A new kind of challenge exists today for plaintiff's attorneys specializing in asbestos and silica litigation.

Emboldened by the work of congressional investigators, federal prosecutors and a tough federal judge in Texas who asserts that mass silica diagnoses were "manufactured for money," defendants are beginning to fight cases rather than automatically settling them.

In a suit filed Nov. 30, plaintiffs Lawrence and Roberta A. Carte claim Union Carbide, Elkem Metals, Jebsens Metals, the 3M Company and others should be held accountable for Lawrence Carte being exposed to silica and silica-containing dust during his nearly 30 years of work at the metal smelting plant in Alloy in Fayette County. The plant is better known as the Elkem Plant.

Carte said he was injured by exposure to silica-containing products on the job and by the use of defective respiratory protective equipment and other devices needed to carry out his job duties. He claims the equipment used on the job created breathable silica dust and that the equipment didn't properly protect him from the dust and had no warnings on it.

Because of the exposure, Carte claims he has suffered serious and permanent bodily injuries, incurred medical expenses, lost wages ad a diminished earning capacity. And he expects more of that in the future, the suit alleges.

Carte's suit was assigned to Judge Charley King.

In the second suit, also filed Nov. 30, Lonnie R. Griffith and George W. Black and their wives Gladys and Marilyn, respectively, claim the 3M Company, U.S. Silica Company, ACF Industries and ACF of Delaware are to blame for their exposure to silica and silica-containing dust.

Griffith worked at the ACF plant in Huntington from 1969 to 2000, while Black worked there from 1966 to 1996. Their suits make claims similar to Carte's suit: they suffered injuries, medical expenses, lost wages and earning capacity – and expect more in the future – because of their exposure to silica products while on the job.

Their suit was assigned to Judge Jim Stucky.

In the third suit, David A. and Linda J. Nichols claim Southern Appalachian Coal Company, the Valley Camp Coal Company, WRM Inc., Black Rock Contracting Inc., Geupel Construction Company, Glasgow Inc., Lane Construction Company and others were negligent for not providing equipment with sufficient dust suppression/collection systems to keep David Nichols from breathing in silica dust while working at various mining and construction jobs since 1971 to 1988.

As a result of that exposure, the suit claims Nichols suffered bodily injuries. The suit claims the defendants knew or should have known that exposing persons to silica dust posed life-threatening dangers.

Each of the suits say silica causes silicosis, pulmonary tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other collagen diseases, pulmonary fibrosis and cancer. And in each suit, the wives of the primary plaintiffs are suing for loss of consortium.

Nichols' suit, which was filed Dec. 1, was assigned to Judge Paul Zakaib.

Kanawha Circuit Court case numbers: 05-C-2640 (Carte), 05-C-2641 (Griffith and Black), 05-C-2650 (Nichols)

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