Three personal injury lawsuits representing 43 persons were file on Wednesday against Capstan Corp. and two of its divisions – Fraser Shipyards and Northern Engineering Co. – alleging the plaintiffs were exposed to hazardous conditions while working on a cargo vessel at Fraser’s Superior dry dock.
Lawsuits filed on behalf of Donald Holden, Brandon Pekkala and John Perin allege the plaintiffs were exposed to toxic lead and other hazards while working on the Herbert C. Jackson while it was being refurbished. The work included the installation of diesel engines, a new gearbox and propeller system, exhaust gas economizers, an auxiliary boiler and new structural steel components. Interlake Steamship Co., which is also named as a defendant, solicited bids and awarded the project to Fraser.
The plaintiffs contend certain safety personnel at Capstan made an effort to ensure that proper lead abatement and toxin avoidance procedures were implemented on the Jackson, but those efforts were overruled by Capstan business managers because of the added costs and potential for work delays. The civil complaint argues that the defendants concealed the presence of toxins from workers “…and involved profits taking precedence over safety.”
Perrin and Pekkala were boilermakers and Holden was a welder/shipfitter/fabricator. All three were employed by subcontractors for the project. They used blasting tools and torches to remove paint as part of their work and subsequently were diagnosed with lead poisoning, the lawsuit claims. It contends the defendants knew or should have known that the ship’s surfaces were covered in lead paint that produced toxic fumes and airborne particles during those removal processes. Workers’ health complaints were ignored by Fraser and the other defendants, the plaintiffs said.
A subsequent OSHA investigation found 14 “willful egregious” health violations against Fraser plus five “willful” violations related to lead exposure.
The plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages, costs and other relief deemed appropriate by the court. They also seek a jury trial.
Last year, James Holder, a 48-year-old welder and ship fabricator, filed a similar lawsuit, claiming he was exposed to critically high and toxic levels of lead while working on the Herbert C. Jackson at Fraser Shipyards.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The plaintiffs are represented by Rapoport Law Offices of Chicago.