Welding rod litigation maintains that the occupational exposure to welding fumes causes neurological conditions similar to Parkinson’s disease. At issue is the presence of the chemical manganese in the rods that welders use to join metals. Occupational exposure to manganese can lead to manganism, which is also known as welder’s disease. The symptoms are similar to Parkinson’s disease so maganaism is classified as Parkinson’s syndrome. Symptoms include tremors, shakiness, decreased movement or rigid muscles, loss of balance, sterility in men, short-term memory problems, slow or slurred speech, hand stiffness and pain. Symptoms are not reversible. The connection between manganese exposure and those symptoms is the subject of some 3,800 welding-rod lawsuits. Plaintiffs were encouraged by a $1 million Illinois verdict for a welder in 2006.
Welding Rod Controversy
Welding rods appear to be the new asbestos, and attorneys and courts across the country are noticing a dramatic increase in welding rod litigation as workers allege serious medical conditions as a result of occupational exposure to the toxic effects of welding rods. However, the accusations of welding rod litigants are controversial, with the welding industry continuing to claim that welding rod fumes do not cause manganism or Parkinson’s disease. The industry has even gone to the lengths of providing its own study concluding (unsurprisingly) that welding rod fumes are benign and safe for workers.
Though the welding industry strenuously contends that welding rod fumes are non-toxic and have no connection whatsoever to chronic and even deadly conditions such as manganism, Parkinson’s disease, and others, studies published by non-industry organizations such as the National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association have recognized manganese as a toxic byproduct of welding rods. In addition, the industry states that it is unaware of any welders who have developed manganism, contending that most manganism occurs in third-world countries amongst miners.
Affected Workers Think Differently
Those welding workers who are affected with the daily distress of manganism and Parkinson’s disease think differently. In their litigation attempts, they are claiming that the welding industry not only was aware of the dangers of welding rods and the potential for manganism, but that the welding industry was negligent, even covering up evidence that manganism is a hazard of working with the fumes from welding rods. The workers’ cases are further complicated by the fact that manganism is slow to manifest itself and is likely to be mistaken for another condition or disease and misdiagnosed. However, they are proceeding with mass tort litigation, even filing a huge multi-district litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court in Cleveland, Ohio.
If You’ve Been Affected By Welding-Related Manganism or Parkinson’s
If you have been affected by manganism, Parkinson’s disease, or other illnesses associated with inhalation of fumes from welding rods, contact a doctor immediately. Your diagnosis will direct your care and be invaluable as you attempt to file your manganese/welding rod claim. Contact an attorney with experience in welding rod litigation to find out more about whether your case is viable. If you have a strong claim, you may be able to recover damages, including but not limited to payment of medical treatment and future medical care, attorney’s fees, and compensation for lost wages and/or pain and suffering. An experienced welding rod lawyer will analyze your case, help you file suit against the proper entities, and help you get the compensation you deserve.
With around 800,000 current and former welders living in the United States alone, you are not alone. As welding rod litigation continues to pick up speed, it may well become the next wave of mass tort in this country.
Former Welder’s $1 Million Verdict Will Stand
Though the welding industry continues to vigorously defend itself against a growing tidal wave of welding rod litigation, it was dealt a serious blow in March 2006 when its repeated attempts to overturn a welding rod fumes case failed in the Illinois Supreme Court. The case is a landmark in welding rod litigation, in which former welders claim that exposure to fumes from welding rods caused manganism and even Parkinson’s disease.
The Original Case
Though several welding rod cases have produced multi-million dollar settlements, the original case in question is a landmark because it is the only welding rod verdict ever decided in favor of the plaintiff. The case, entitled Elam v. A.O. Smith, contended that the plaintiff, a 64-year-old Illinois welder who worked in the profession for 30 years, suffered neurological damage from long-term exposure to the toxic fumes that are a byproduct of welding rods. The case was previously tried before a hung jury (Illinois law demands a unanimous jury); in its retrial, Jack Elam was awarded $1 million in “compensatory damages” for his welding rod-related Parkinson’s disease. The jury found that A.O. Smith failed to provide adequate safety warnings about the dangers of manganese in welding rod fumes.
The verdict was a watershed in more ways than one – it unleashed a wave of welding rod litigation once attorneys knew that it was possible for a verdict to be awarded in the plaintiff’s favor. The welding rod cases have become so numerous that a multi-district litigation is underway in Ohio; it numbers well over 3,000 plaintiffs.
Lost on Appeal
The defendants in the original case quickly appealed the case, contending that it did in fact adequately warn workers of the dangers of working with welding rod fumes. However, in December 2005, the 5th District Appellate Court of Illinois found that the company did not warn workers adequately, upholding the $1 million verdict. On second appeal, the court was taken up before the Illinois Supreme Court. However, it dealt a devastating blow to the welding industry – and gave an encouraging nod to former welders looking to get compensated for their own occupational welding rod-related illnesses – when it effectively upheld the verdict by declining to review the case.
Former Welders Cling to Hope; Continue to Litigate
Despite the fact that the $1 million verdict is the only one ever given to a welding rod litigant, former welders who are suffering from Parkinson’s, manganism and other occupational illnesses related to their welding work are retaining hope. Welding rod attorneys hope that the Elam v. A.O. Smith will set a precedent that allows other litigants to collect damages for their occupational exposure to manganese. If you are suffering health problems due to your work as a welder, contact a doctor and then an experienced welding rod litigation attorney who can analyze your case and tell you whether you may be qualified to monetary damages.