These transformers used a mineral-based dielectric fluid as a coolant. Joiner’s job often required him to stick his hands and arms into the coolant to make repairs. Sometimes, the fluid would splash on him getting into his eyes and mouth.
Then in 1983, the city found out that the fluid used in some transformers was contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). PCBs are considered to be hazardous to human health and the Congress has banned the production and sale of PCBs in 1978.
In 1991, Joiner was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer and he decided to sue Monsanto, who manufactured PCBs from 1935 to 199, and General Electric and Westinghouse Electric, who manufactured the transformers and dielectric fluid. Joiner complained that he developed lung cancer because of the exposure to PCBs and their derivatives. It was also noted in the court that Joiner had been a smoker for nearly 8 years and both his parents were also smokers. In addition, there was a history of lung cancer in his family. Thus, he was at a higher risk of developing lung cancer. In his lawsuit, Joiner contended that the exposure to PCBs aided in promoting his cancer and had it not been for these chemicals, he would not have developed cancer for many more year, if at all.
General Electric Co v. Joiner lawsuit was moved to the federal court by the petitioners and they moved for summary judgment because of the following reasons:
- There was no evidence that Joiner has suffered significant exposure to PCBs and its derivatives.
- There was no scientific evidence that the PCBs was responsible for promoting Joiner’s cancer.
However, Joiner begged to differ and brought his own expert witnesses who testified that PCBs alone could promote cancer and so could the derivatives. The experts felt that the exposure to PCBs and their derivatives had most likely promoted Joiner’s cancer.
The District Court granted summary judgment for General Electric Co because there was no genuine issue whether Joiner had been exposed to the derivatives and because the expert witnesses failed to show a link between the exposure to PCBs and the lung cancer.
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