Welder Awarded $20.5 Million in Lawsuit

On Dec. 5, Lincoln Electric Holdings and four other companies were ordered to pay $20.5 million in a case involving a welder sickened by fumes he inhaled on the job, marking the first time a welder has won such a lawsuit since 2003.

A federal jury in Cleveland deliberated for more than a week before determining that Lincoln Electric Holdings, along with Hobart Brother Co., ESAB Group, TDY Industries and BOC Group, were negligent by not warning Jeff Tamraz of their products’ manganese toxicity. The jury awarded Tamraz $17.5 million and also ordered that an additional $3 million be paid in damages to his wife for loss of consortium.

Tamraz worked as a welder and iron worker in San Francisco for 26 years. In 2001, he began experiencing neurological symptoms that progressed until he became permanently disabled by 2004. Doctors diagnosed his condition as manganese-induced Parkinsonism, a physically and mentally debilitating disease that causes tremors.

John Climaco, an attorney who represented Tamraz, told OccupationalHazards.com that these companies should have alerted his client of the hazards “by putting out an adequate warning that manganese in welding fumes causes brain damage.”

The five defending companies manufactured welding consumables, such as welding rods and wires that Tamraz used on the job.

“It’s the consumables, the rods and wires, that contain the manganese [that] comes out in the fumes,” Climaco said. He added that the defendants “deliberately hid” the hazards associated with welding consumables.

Defendants: Welding Industry Acted Responsibly

Climaco hopes the verdict will “finally cause some manufacturers to acknowledge manganese in welding fumes can cause neurological damage and warn accordingly.”

Welding companies, however, state that the amount of manganese in the fumes is not significant enough to cause harm. The defendants in this case maintain that there is no evidence proving the welding fumes caused Tamraz’s disorder, and are appealing the verdict.

In a statement, the defendants wrote: “The welding industry has always acted responsibly on behalf of welders and is being unfairly targeted in these suits. Moreover, reliable scientific studies continue to show no association between exposure to welding fumes and neurological disorders, and the defendants will continue to defend themselves against these baseless claims.”

Welding companies traditionally have won cases brought against them by welders claiming fumes caused their illnesses. Defending companies won 16 out of 17 of these recent cases, making Tamraz’s victory a rare win for welders. The last verdict that favored welders occurred in 2003 in Madison County, Ill., when a jury awarded a welder $1 million.

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