Man Blames Dow Solvent for His Parkinson's Disease

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TORRANCE (CNS) - A judge has ruled a man who worked for 18 years as an electronic journeyman at Boeing Corp.'s Torrance plant can move forward with his claims against the Dow Chemical Co., in which he alleges his longtime exposure to a Dow cleaning solvent caused him to get Parkinson's disease.

Torrance Superior Court Judge Gary Y. Tanaka issued his ruling Wednesday, a day after having taken under submission Dow's motion to dismiss all or part of the case brought by Daniel O'Leary, and his wife, Darla O'Leary. Their claims against Dow include strict liability and fraudulent concealment.

The judge also denied Dow's motion to dismiss the couple's claim for punitive damages.

O'Leary was employed at a machine shop at the Boeing plant from February 1982 until September 2000 and worked on electronic machine parts and used various solvents during that time, according to the complaint brought in June 2018 in which the O'Leary's sued Dow and multiple other defendants.

In the 1990s, Boeing began using a degreaser called NEU-TRI that contained trichloroethylene, also known as TCE, the suit states. TCE, a chemical compound and halocarbon commonly used as an industrial solvent, has been the subject of numerous groundwater-contamination lawsuits.

"Plaintiff presented evidence to support an inference that during his employment with Boeing he personally used or was exposed to various Dow products," the judge wrote.

Tanaka cited as an example a sworn declaration from O'Leary's former co-worker, Jesse Fuentes, who said that 55-gallon drums of TCE with the Dow logo were stored at the Boeing facility and that he and O'Leary used that product regularly.

In their court papers, Dow attorneys argued that O'Leary's evidence was speculative and that noted that the company's own sworn declarant said that based on her review, there were no records evidencing that Dow sold or shipped NEU-TRI to Boeing or its predecessor, the McDonnell Douglas Corp., at its Torrance, Long Beach, Huntington Beach or Seal Beach locations from 1979-98, including O'Leary's claimed exposure dates.

Throughout his time at Boeing, which is not being sued, O'Leary was required to buy NEU-TRI from Dow so it could be used on Boeing electrical parts and motors, his suit states. He was exposed to NEU-TRI daily from minutes to several hours daily, according to the complaint.

O'Leary ultimately developed Parkinson's disease in June 2011 as well as other illnesses due to the exposure for which he requires constant care, according to his lawsuit. He learned in June 2016 that his health problems could be related to his work at Boeing, the suit says.

O'Leary alleges Dow failed to disclose to him and to Boeing that NEU- TRI contained TCE, which was known to cause Parkinson's disease.

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