The manganese component in rod fumes is linked to Parkinson's disease.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- A federal judge has indicated that she will allow workers who claim they developed Parkinson's disease after inhaling fumes from welding rods to sue the manufacturers and other welding industry companies, according to a draft ruling issued last week.
Lawyers for manufacturer Lincoln Electric Holdings Inc., based in the Cleveland suburb of Euclid, and other companies asked Judge Kathleen O'Malley about a year ago to bar arguments linking welding and Parkinson's, which they say are not related.
O'Malley's draft ruling would allow thousands of lawsuits to go forward because a federal panel consolidated them into her district to simplify legal issues.
Cleveland lawyer John R. Climaco and other attorneys for welders say it will allow them to provide evidence in court that workers suffered neurological damage from welding rod fumes that contain manganese, which stabilizes and hardens the weld.
Climaco said O'Malley issued the shorter ruling because of the amount of motions in the complicated case. She is expected to issue a longer decision detailing the reasons for the ruling later, he said.
A jury ruled in 2003 that welding-rod manufacturers were responsible for failing to warn an Illinois man about potential health problems and awarded him $1 million. Larry Elam of Collinsville, Ill., said he used rods made and sold by major companies across the country, including Lincoln Electric.
Dramatic exposure only
Lincoln and other makers and sellers of the rods have argued that only someone dramatically overexposed to manganese will suffer some neurological disorders. Those circumstances are rare, and welders doing a normal amount of work would fall far short of those levels, they said.
Climaco said the first lawsuit, scheduled for trial Aug. 29, will involve a welder disabled by Parkinson's disease who says his condition resulted from exposure to manganese fumes in a Mississippi shipyard.
About 1 percent of the more than 500,000 welders nationwide are involved in federal lawsuits.
The lawsuits could cost Lincoln Electric in both litigation and damages, but Holden Lewis, an analyst at BB & amp;T Capital Markets, said the company has won most of the handful of cases that have gone to trial.
"Nothing changes by virtue of the ruling," he said.