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First Lawsuit Filed After OSHA Shuts Down Work at Fraser Shipyards Due to Toxic Lead Exposure

Madison, Wisconsin, May 25, 2016

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This morning a federal lawsuit was filed in Madison, Wisconsin on behalf of a 48-year-old welder and ship fabricator who was exposed to critically high and toxic levels of lead while working at Fraser Shipyards in Superior, Wisconsin. This is the first reported lawsuit to have been filed for the toxic lead exposure that occurred earlier this year at Fraser Shipyards, which was widely reported in the media in March of 2016 when OSHA shut down the worksite because of the toxic levels of lead that were present. The lawsuit names as defendants Fraser Shipyards, Inc., Northern Engineering Company LLC, and Ohio based Interlake Steamship Company, who were in charge of the retrofitting work being performed on the Herbert C. Jackson, a 690′ bulk carrier ship undergoing dry-dock work at Fraser Shipyards.

According to the lawsuit, our client was amongst dozens of workers who had started retrofitting work in January of 2016 aboard the 57 year-old vessel when they were exposed to toxic levels of lead. The lawsuit alleges that as the project progressed, workers began to make complaints of unusual illnesses afflicting them, but were falsely reassured by the defendants that there was “nothing to be concerned about.” Workers continued to fall ill until OSHA ordered a halt to all work aboard the vessel in March. In our client’s case, the levels of lead in his blood were more than 7 times the level recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as being harmful.

The lawsuit faults the defendants for violating the Wisconsin Safe Place Statute by failing to take steps to warn of the presence of toxins aboard the ship and then, once workers began to fall ill, concealing the presence of critically high levels of lead. According to the lawsuit, this is not the first time Fraser Shipyards has been in trouble for exposing workers to toxins. Fraser Shipyards has previously been cited with more than sixty safety violations by OSHA, including citations for failing to protect shipyard workers from toxic levels of lead.

The lawsuit notes the Minnesota Department of Health and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services jointly issued a public health advisory warning of the dangers of lead exposure, and particularly of the potential for “take-home lead” to affect the families of workers, causing adverse effects with pregnant women and children. OSHA’s investigation remains pending.

The lawsuit is seeking compensation for our client’s injuries as a result of his critically high levels of lead exposure, and punitive damages against the defendants for their intentional disregard of the safety of a shipworker who suffered lead poisoning.

The poisoned worker is represented by David E. Rapoport and Matthew S. Sims of Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. in Chicago. According to Mr. Rapoport, who has represented injured workers and their families for over thirty years: “The dangerous working conditions at Fraser Shipyards earlier this year not only exposed the workers to unsafe air that was poisoned with lead and other toxic substances, it also exposed their families and others who come in close contact with these workers to harm. Science proves the risk of lead poisoning includes these groups.” Mr. Sims added: “Sadly, when corporations make their profits a priority over safety, it is the innocent workers and their families who are asked to pay the price.”

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