Trucking Giant Trimac Sued by Ex-Workers Claiming Years of Toxic Chemical Exposure Injuries
The trucking company failed to provide protective gear and deceived workers about the danger they faced from cleaning chemical tankers and railcars, the complaint said.
Three former employees of international trucking giant Trimac Transportation were left with debilitating injuries after years of exposure to an array of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, according to a complaint naming the company and more than a dozen of its clients including Dow Chemical, Monsanto, BASF, E.I. DuPont de Nemours and others for claims including racketeering and negligence.
All three men worked as wash rack technicians at Trimac’s Atlanta and Fairburn facilities, where they cleaned tanker trucks and railroad cars that had been used to haul chemicals such as ammonia, benzene, naphtha, styrene, toluene, sulfuric acid and glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, among others.
The plaintiffs, who cleaned 16 to 25 trucks a day, now have permanent disabilities, said JHPII principal James Potts II, who represents the former workers and the wife of one of them.
“All of these guys are relatively younger—late 40s, 50 or so—and they’re all unable to work. They can barely get around,” said Potts, who filed the complaint in Fulton County State Court on Tuesday.
The men worked at the facilities between 2000 and 2019, during which they were often told the chemicals they were exposed to in railcars, tanker trucks and other enclosed containers were nonhazardous or deceived as to what the substances actually were, he said.
In some cases, personal protective equipment was not provided, even though mandatory forms indicated it had been, he said.
In addition to failing to provide proper safety equipment, he said Trimac also falsified safety data sheets required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“We’ve got a pile of these tank tickets,” he said. “Some of them have the wrong chemical on them, some also have a dangerous chemical and they’d tell them it was not hazardous. If they said anything, [superiors] would say, ‘Get in there and clean it or clock out and go home.’”
Trimac, which bills itself as “one of the largest bulk carriers in North America,” owns or leases more than 100 facilities throughout the United States and Canada and has more than 1,800 employees, Potts said.
In an emailed statement, Trimac spokesman Gary Snow said the company was aware of the suit.
“The health and safety of our employees and the community are paramount at Trimac,” it said. “We hold ourselves to the highest standards to ensure that our essential work is performed safely. While we sympathize with the health conditions of the plaintiffs, we are confident the allegations in the civil suit will be proven false.”
“Safety is a core value at Trimac, and we are committed to ensuring safe operations for both our employees and the communities in which we operate,” Trimac’s statement said.
According to Potts and the complaint he filed in Fulton County State Court, plaintiff Clarence Glenn worked as a rack technician for 18 years before being diagnosed in 2019 with multiple conditions, “including heart failure that requires a heart transplant, kidney failure that requires dialysis at least 3 times per week and a kidney transplant, insulin dependent diabetes, seizures, and blindness that has already required 7 eye surgeries, all as a direct and proximate result of his repeated exposure.”
Demetrius Phillips spent 10 years working for Trimac before being diagnosed with blastoid lymphoma last year, a type of cancer “well-known to be caused by exposure to defendants’ lethal, poisonous and carcinogenic chemicals.”
Plaintiff Chris Hudson also spent 10 years at Trimac; he was diagnosed earlier this year with vitiligo, a disease that causes skin to lose its pigmentation in patches and can affect the inside of the mouth.
One of the plaintiffs has been able to support himself through his military retirement benefits, said Potts, while Trimac has resisted another plaintiffs’ efforts to seek workers’ compensation.
In addition to the corporate defendants, the complaint also names several Trimac employees for claims including violation of Georgia’s Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization statute, fraud, product liability, negligence and failure to warn, design and manufacturing defects.
Potts said he’s only begun his efforts to hold Trimac accountable and is exploring similar claims involving the company’s sites in Texas and North Carolina.
“These are very dangerous substances they’re exposing people to, and we’re going to put a stop to it,” he said.