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Exposure Doesn't Cause Parkinson's Disease,
Welding Rod Defendants Say

07/08/04
Toxic Chemicals Litigation Reporter
Volume 22; Issue 11

Numerous plaintiffs who worked as welders across the country have filed suit against manufacturers and suppliers of welding products, charging that welding rods can create toxic levels of manganese, which can lead to injuries such as the early onset of Parkinson's disease (see Toxic Torts LR, Vol. 22, Iss. 10).

The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has consolidated more than 4,000 claims in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The MDL is presided over by U.S. District Judge Kathleen O'Malley.

The named manufacturer and supplier defendants in these cases include Lincoln Electric Holding Inc., Airco Inc. and A.O. Smith Corp. Some complaints also name large industrial consumers of welding products, such as Caterpillar Inc. and General Electric Co.

In this memorandum in support of a motion to exclude all testimony that exposure to welding fumes causes Parkinson's disease, the defendants argue that no scientific literature establishes that welding fumes cause or accelerate the onset of Parkinson's disease.

The defendants charge that allowing the plaintiffs to introduce expert evidence to the contrary would violate the rule that litigants must employ scientifically expert testimony outlined in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993).

The memo asserts that excluding a "very small percentage of cases where genetic factors have been implicated (under 1,000 world-wide)," scientists have been unable to identify the cause of Parkinson's disease despite more than one and one-half centuries of research.

First described in 1817 by James Parkinson, the disease is a slowly progressive degenerative movement disorder.

The defendants cite numerous epidemiologic studies that have found no statistically significant association between welding fumes and Parkinson's disease.

For example, a 1999 case-control study by Dr. Joseph Tsui evaluated whether several occupations, including welding, were associated with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease among the general population of Vancouver, British Columbia. Although Tsui reported associations between Parkinson's disease and numerous occupations, welding was not among those found to be associated with Parkinson's disease, the defendants say.

Finally, the defendants argue that excluding testimony that welding fumes cause or accelerate Parkinson's disease have widespread application to this case. Such a ruling would dispose of claims where plaintiffs allege that their Parkinson's disease is welding-related.

The defendants are represented by R. Eric Kennedy and David Landever of Weisman, Kennedy & Berris in Cleveland and by John Beisner, Charles Read and Stephen Harburg of O'Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C.

Full Case Name: In re Welding Rod Products Liability Litigation|Short Case Name: In re Welding Rod Prods. Liab. Litig.|Court: N.D. Ohio|Case Action: memo to exclude testimony filed|Docket Number: No. MDL 1535|Action Date: 6/17/2004

 
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