In the early 1990s, two former union officials, Ralph Krieger and Joe Sebastian, called John Lipsitz to see if Lipsitz & Ponterio could help one of their union members from Local 8-215, Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW) at the Linde Division of Union Carbide. This union worker had been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
In the early 1960s, the union worker had been assigned to break up a concrete floor in one of the buildings at Linde in Tonawanda. This building was previously used to process uranium to make the atomic bomb. The floor was radioactive, a fact documented by a government-funded site survey. Shortly after a claim was filed with the Workers’ Compensation Board, our client died. Lipsitz & Ponterio filed a claim on behalf of his widow claiming that his death was due to an occupational disease. Lipsitz & Ponterio fought the case for four years before the Workers’ Compensation Board and lost. The judge presiding conceded that our claimant was exposed to radioactive dust particles, which he inhaled, but he gave credit to the expert testimony presented by the employer and dismissed the opinions of our experts. The judge ruled that we failed to prove that our client’s cancer was caused by the radiation.
Fast-forward to The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000 (EEOICPA) and the regulations promulgated thereunder, listing Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma as a covered radiogenic cancer. Our client’s case ended roughly twenty years after it began. The family received a monetary award under EEOICPA. This result was due, in large part, to the advocacy of Ralph Krieger and Joe Sebastian. It was their belief that workers at Linde had been unwittingly sacrificed for the national defense and that their families should be compensated for their resulting illnesses.