by Barrett Seaman –
When the paid notice you see on page 26 of our September print issue was first submitted to The Hudson Independent, its somewhat cryptic nature drew our curiosity. So we took the liberty of calling the number listed to find out more about James Murphy and who was seeking anyone who knew him. What we discovered struck us as having news value that we share with our readers this month.
James Murphy spent 17 years working for General Motors at its Tarrytown assembly plant before it closed down in 1996. He spent much of his time working in the paint department. After the Tarrytown plant closed, Murphy and a number of his co-workers were offered jobs at a GM parts plant in Albany, Georgia, which he took, and where he met and married his wife Lori. The couple would later be transferred to GM facilities in Alabama and then to Virginia as GM closed one plant after another. Along the way, they had three children.
In 2015, Murphy was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a relatively rare blood cancer. Shortly before he died of the disease last January, Lori Murphy saw something on TV suggesting a link between leukemia and chemicals. When she learned of scientific evidence that benzene could well have caused Jim’s cancer, she reached out to a local law firm that in turn passed the matter on to Locks Law Firm PLLC, an East Coast firm that specializes in personal injury cases in which hazardous materials are involved…
…which is where the phone number in the notice on page 26 will lead anyone who calls. On behalf of James Murphy’s estate, the firm has filed a case against some 20 companies, including E.I. DuPont De Nemours, Sherwin Williams, BASF, Shell and several oil companies engaged in the manufacture and sale of benzene-containing products, mainly paint. General Motors is not among the listed defendants because, as attorney Janet Walsh explains, in New York State and elsewhere, “Employees cannot sue their employees in such cases,” but they can sue the companies that supplied the product that they allege caused the harm.
The Locks firm is looking for people who might have worked alongside Jim Murphy or who knew exactly which of the named defendants actually supplied the paint Murphy applied. They have had some luck: a 90-year-old GM retiree now living in upper Manhattan has produced a GM Tarrytown yearbook put out when the plant closed, with photos of the various departments including the paint department.
While it is not naming General Motors, Locks is subpoenaing their workers’ compensation records to see if other workers have contracted cancer or other health issues related to exposure to benzenes. Attorney Walsh acknowledges that the case is in its early stages and will take years before it is resolved.