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Lincoln Electric Cleared in Manganese Exposure Trial

Margaret Cronin Fisk

04/29/05

Bloomberg News

April 29 (Bloomberg) -- A Texas jury cleared Lincoln Electric Holdings Inc., the world's largest maker of welding equipment, and other manufacturers in a suit by a 58-year-old welder who said exposure to manganese on the job made him sick.

The case was filed by Ronald Presler, a welder for 26 years, who worked for a company that made oil industry equipment. Presler claimed exposure to toxic manganese fumes in the welding process caused a neurological disorder akin to Parkinson's disease. He sought more than $10 million in damages. The jury found no link between his illness and manganese exposure.

The suit is one of several thousand against Lincoln Electric and other manufacturers. Exposure to high levels of manganese can cause manganism, a permanent injury to the part of the brain that controls body movements, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Welding rod companies have lost only one of 10 cases that have gone to trial, industry attorney John Beisner said.

"Despite all their hype, plaintiffs cannot establish causation in these cases, because it just isn't there,'' Beisner said in a statement. "Today's decision further illustrates there is no causal link between mild steel welding and Parkinson's disease or any other Parkinson's-like movement disorder,'' he said.

Also cleared by the state court jury in Angleton, Texas, today were Hobart Brothers Co. and TDY Industries Inc., a subsidiary of Allegheny Technologies Inc.

`The Next Asbestos'

The Presler verdict will slow down the filing of new suits and progress on pending ones, Washington attorney Gregory Neppl said.

"The plaintiffs' bar has been hoping for this to be the next asbestos as a source of revenue,'' Neppl said. Suits over asbestos exposure have generated billions of dollars in judgments for plaintiffs with lung cancer and other diseases. Seventy-four companies have been forced into bankruptcy by asbestos litigation.

"The plaintiffs' attorneys will have to evaluate the prospect of doing a lot of work and getting nothing for it,'' said Neppl, who's been following the litigation on behalf of interested investors and isn't involved in the lawsuits.

Presler's attorney, Mikal Watts, said he hasn't decided whether to appeal.

Today's verdict came in the second trial over Presler's claim. In February, a mistrial was declared when a previous jury deadlocked, voting 8-4 for Presler, two short of the 10 votes required for a verdict, Watts said.

Shares of Cleveland-based Lincoln Electric rose $1.30 to $30.55 at 4:18 p.m. in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading. Shares of Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Technologies rose 20 cents to $22.40 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

The lawsuit is Presler v. The Lincoln Electric Co., No. 23472, in the 23rd District Court, Brazoria County, Texas.

 

 

 

 
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