When a worker is harmed by toxic chemical exposure, he or she can only make a claim for workers’ compensation. But what happens when the worker’s baby suffers a birth defect of injury that could be linked to those same chemicals? Can you make a claim in court for negligence?
The First District Court of Appeals in Chicago, Illinois says “Yes, you can,” even if the father was the one exposed and the baby was never present in the workplace, even in utero.
“An Illinois appeals court revived a lawsuit accusing Motorola of ‘willful and wanton misconduct’ that caused numerous employees’ children to suffer severe birth defects in utero from their fathers’ exposure to toxic chemicals at its semiconductor plants,” according to a report from the Courthouse News Service (CNS). The claim names 49 plaintiffs (part of eight separate lawsuits), including Jeremy Hardison and Sarina Finzer. Jeremey was born with an underdeveloped jaw; Sarina was born with a club foot. They, along with the other plaintiffs, claim that their fathers’ exposure to chemicals is what led to their birth defects. Plattner Verderame, PC joined with law firms in New York, Massachusetts, Texas, and Illinois to bring these cases.
A brief review of the claim
Jeremy and Sarina’s fathers (along with others) worked at Motorola’s semiconductor plants here in Arizona, and in Texas. Computer chips are delicate during the manufacturing process, so the employees worked in “clean rooms.” But the special “clean” equipment and clothing were primarily designed to protect the computer chips from hair, skin, or dust from the employees – not to protect the employees from the often-toxic chemicals they worked with.
The plaintiffs alleged that Motorola knew the toxic chemicals posed serious threats of birth defects (as well as infertility, miscarriages, and stillbirths), but Motorola used them anyway, instead of safer alternatives, without warning employees, and without taking reasonable measures to protect the employees. These toxins impaired the sperm, which in turn, led to their children’s birth defects. Per CNS, “plaintiffs sought damages for negligence, strict liability, willful and wanton misconduct, breach of an assumed duty, and loss of child consortium.”
Why the Illinois Court of Appeals reinstated the claim
Justice Mary Anne Mason wrote the opinion for the Court, with Justice P. Scott Neville Jr. and Justice Michael Hyman concurring. In that opinion, she wrote that the reversal was in no way an indication that the plaintiffs’ claim would be successful – but that “the claims for negligence and willful and wanton misconduct under both Arizona and Texas law and the claims for loss of child consortium under Arizona law were sufficiently pled to withstand a section 2-615 motion to dismiss. The allegations in the complaint set forth a viable cause of action for negligence.
Furthermore, Motorola claimed that they would have conceded viability of the claim had the mothers been exposed to toxic chemicals while their children were in utero. Justice Mason, however noted that “As a matter of public policy, a child born with defects caused by a parent’s exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace is entitled to seek damages regardless of whether the child’s mother or father was the employee exposed to the toxic chemicals.”
Plattner Verderame, P.C. offers honest counsel for honest clients throughout Arizona. Our team of birth defect and injury lawyers in Phoenix is here to help guide you through the process, and to seek justice on your behalf. You can trust us to protect your rights. To learn more about our services, or to schedule your free initial consultation, please call 602-783-8793, or complete our contact form today.