Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hundreds screened for jury in miner trial

Hundreds screened for jury in miner trial

1,394 miners claim exposure to dangerous chemical

By Stephanie Taylor Staff Writer
Published: Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 11:42 p.m.
TUSCALOOSA | Attorneys have been vetting hundreds of potential jurors for an upcoming civil case that could last up to four months.

About 300 potential jurors remain in what started as a 400-member jury pool on Monday.
The case involves 1,394 miners and former miners who claim they were exposed to the dangerous chemical isocyanate, found in products used to seal and strengthen the walls and ceilings of mines. Several are named in the suit, including product manufacturer Micon Inc., Jim Walter Resources Inc. and United States Steel Mining Co., where the product was used.
Proceedings have been held at the Bama Theatre instead of the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse, an unprecedented move made to accommodate the massive jury pool.
Potential jurors seemed weary Wednesday afternoon, but they perked up when Circuit Judge John England announced that they would not be required to show up today. It is unclear how long the jury selection process will take.
On Monday, the potential jurors filled out a questionnaire and answered questions about whether they could serve on a jury for the trial, which could last until December. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they viewed slides showing images of each of the 1,394 plaintiffs.
The potential jurors were asked to reveal whether they knew any of the plaintiffs or their families. For hours, people who knew the plaintiffs spoke into a microphone passed around the theater to explain their ties. Attorneys made note of the often complicated relationships, such as “He’s married to my grandfather’s sister” and “She used to be married to my third cousin.”

The people in the theater broke into applause when the final slide was shown.
Three cases were originally filed in the Bessemer division of Jefferson County Circuit Court. They were later consolidated and the case was moved to Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court in 2007.
The miners claim that they were exposed to isocyanate, which was combined with polyurethane to create a foam sprayed on the sides of mine walls.
Exposure to the isocyanate products can irritate mucous membranes of the eyes, gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Direct contact can cause skin inflammation and exposure can make people prone to severe asthma attacks. Death from severe asthma in some people exposed to isocyanates has been reported, according to the CDC.
The suit claims the companies violated the Hazard Communication Standard contained in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, guidelines set by the American National Standards Institute and the federal Toxic Substances Control Act.
They are also claiming that the defendants committed fraud by willfully misrepresenting, concealing or suppressing the truth about the dangers of the product, that the companies engaged in a civil conspiracy and that they destroyed data that demonstrated the effects of exposure to the chemical.

They are seeking compensatory and punitive damages for physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, medical expenses, loss of income, inability to work, permanent injuries and disabilities and aggravation of pre-existing conditions that the miners allegedly suffered as a result of using the substance.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at
stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosa or 205-722-0210.

No comments:

Post a Comment