Welding is a vital, safe occupation that plays an integral role in the construction of numerous products – from airplanes to houses. Nonetheless, a group of attorneys has brought litigation seeking to portray welding as a dangerous activity that causes neurological injury. These allegations are baseless.
Plaintiffs' claims have been refuted by sound science. Study after study has shown no association between welding and neurological disorders. In September 2009, The Archives of Neurology published results from a Multicenter Case-Control Study, which found that welding was not associated with a greater risk of parkinsonism or Parkinson’s disease. In March 2007, Occupational and Environmental Medicine Online included results from The Geoparkinson Study, led by Dr. Finlay D. Dick, which found no association between high or low exposure to manganese and parkinsonism or Parkinson’s disease. In addition, the February 2006 issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine includes the results of a Swedish nationwide cohort study that evaluated the issue at the center of the welding fume litigation. The study, Parkinson’s disease and other basal ganglia or movement disorders in a large nationwide cohort of Swedish welders, led by Dr. C.M. Fored, concludes that welders are not at an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease or other related movement disorders. This study complements the recent cohort study of Danish welders, and adds to the growing body of scientific literature that refutes any causal link between welding or exposure to welding fumes and an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease or any other similar neurodegenerative disorders.
Plaintiffs have dismissed thousands of cases rather than provide very basic support for their claims. Since 2005, the number of active welding fume lawsuits around the country has fallen by approximately 80%. Many of these dismissals occurred because plaintiffs in the federal MDL litigation were required to provide a short letter from a doctor stating the opinion that their injuries were caused by welding. Plaintiffs’ claims are so flimsy that the vast majority could not comply with that basic requirement. And even where plaintiffs have found a doctor willing to sign such a letter, most ultimately dismiss their cases because further factual development makes it clear that their claims are too weak to place before a jury.
Plaintiffs have dismissed six cases set for trial after defendants uncovered highly suspicious facts about the plaintiffs. Most recently, the MDL court dismissed with prejudice the Ray case, which the plaintiffs were forced to abandon after the plaintiff’s claims of severe disability were refuted by Internet photos that showed him competing in high-speed powerboat races. In addition, discovery revealed that Ray: (1) continued to run his own business after claiming in a Social Security disability application that he had been completely disabled and unable to work since 2004; and (2) had not filed an income tax return for 12 years, including a number of years during which he claimed occupational welding fume exposure.
The Ray case is not the first trial-ready case the plaintiffs have been forced to dismiss. Prior to Ray, plaintiffs were forced to dismiss five trial-ready cases due to outright fraud, three of which plaintiffs themselves had selected for trial in the MDL. In the Morgan case, for example, defendants conducted surveillance and videotaped Morgan performing a number of activities that he had claimed under oath he could not do because of his alleged condition. In the Peabody case, discovery revealed that Peabody had not disclosed his long and highly relevant history of drug and alcohol abuse. In addition, Peabody attributed a variety of alleged symptoms to welding, including memory loss, irritability, and depression, but defendants learned that he had complained of the same symptoms when he was in a drug rehabilitation program nearly 20 years ago – before he ever started welding.
Juries across the country have overwhelmingly rejected the claims that have gone to trial. Most recently, a federal MDL jury in Cleveland, Ohio returned a defense verdict in the Clinger case after 40 minutes of deliberations. Of 31 trials, 26 have resulted in defense verdicts. Three of the five plaintiffs verdicts have also been reversed, and only one has resulted in a final judgment.
Most recently, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the plaintiff’s verdict in the McLemore case.
Before that, on September 8, 2010, the Sixth Circuit reversed the plaintiff’s verdict in the Tamraz case, finding that the trial court erroneously admitted expert testimony of causation. According to the court, the expert’s theory that Mr. Tamraz’s condition was caused by welding “was at most a working hypothesis, not admissible scientific ‘knowledge.’” In addition, on August 26, 2010, the Fifth Circuit vacated the damages award in the Jowers case and remanded the case for a new trial on damages, finding that the Court erred by not allowing the jury to consider apportioning fault to the plaintiff’s employer. Click here for further information on specific verdicts.
Several news articles have exposed plaintiffs’ claims as meritless. Journalists have also written stories on the litigation in various publications, including The Wall Street Journal and Forbes Magazine. Most recently, an April 2008 Bloomberg story details the success the defendants have had in this litigation.
For more information, please see a report issued by the defendants regarding the welding fume litigation.