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Published: Thursday, 3/2/2000

Two more former workers sue Brush

BY SAM ROE
BLADE SENIOR WRITER

ELMORE - Two more workers have sued the Brush Wellman beryllium company, alleging that they contracted a potentially fatal disease at the firm's plant near Elmore.

At least 15 lawsuits now have been filed by workers or their families against the company in recent months.

The two new suits were brought by Randy Lee Bostater and Christina Moomey, both of Graytown, O. They allege that Brush Wellman deliberately exposed them to "unreasonably and abnormally hazardous and dangerous working conditions, knowing that injury and disease would occur.''

Both claim that they were exposed to unsafe levels of toxic beryllium dust, which can cause an incurable lung disease.

Ms. Moomey claims she worked at the plant less than three years before she was diagnosed with the illness.

Mr. Bostater claims he's not the only one in his family to get the disease: His suit says his father got the illness while working at Brush, dying a "slow and painful death.''

"My family has been to hell and back,'' said Jill Bostater, Mr. Bostater's sister-in-law.

The suits, both intentional tort complaints, were filed Feb. 17 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court in Cleveland, where Brush Wellman has headquarters.

The company declined to comment.

Brush Wellman has faced mounting litigation since early last year, when The Blade published a series of articles about the hazards of beryllium, a metal used in nuclear bombs and other weapons.

Among the findings: The U.S. government and the American beryllium industry, including Brush Wellman, knowingly allowed thousands of workers to be exposed to unsafe levels of beryllium dust.

Since the 1940s, hundreds of workers have contracted beryllium disease, including dozens at the Elmore plant.

Most of the suits against Brush Wellman have been intentional tort or wrongful death complaints, with the allegations mirroring the findings of The Blade series.

Louise Roselle, a Cincinnati attorney representing beryllium victims in 14 lawsuits, said more suits could be filed.

She said some people doing contract work at Brush have been diagnosed with beryllium disease, "and there's word out there that they have lawyers.''

Mr. Bostater's suit states that he worked at Brush's Elmore plant from 1978 until late last year. He worked 15 years in service maintenance, cleaning drains, building walls, cleaning up spills, and patching roofs. "Occasionally he would be near furnaces that would spew materials,'' the suits claims.

In another job, he ran a spray dryer machine, which "had to be cleaned by going inside the dryer and scraping the walls with a scraper," the suit states. "He also handled bottles of beryllium powder, which he had to dump into a press. This was a dusty operation.''

Ms. Moomey's suit states that she worked at the plant from April, 1997, until this past January.

She worked on a milling machine, and, at one point, the machine had no hood or ventilation directly overhead, the suit claims.

Mr. Bostater and Ms. Moomey allege that Brush's conduct "was so extreme and outrageous as to exceed all possible bounds of decency and must be regarded as atrocious.'' They seek compensatory and punitive damages in amounts to be determined.



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