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 user 2003-11-06 at 9:39:00 am Views: 48
  • #8346
    First Testimony In IBM Cancer Suit
    SANTA CLARA, Calif. (Nov. 5) – A 73-year-old former IBM factory worker at the center of a landmark cancer lawsuit against the company told a court Wednesday that she was regularly exposed to a thick, pungent-smelling chemical coating while working at a plant making computer disks.

    Taking the stand at a California court in the heart of Silicon Valley, Alida Hernandez, who blames exposure to toxins for her breast cancer diagnosis in 1993, said full-body protective garments, known as bunny suits, provided by IBM failed to keep out the chemicals she worked with.

    ”You could see the brown coating on the bunny suit,” Hernandez, the first person to testify in the case, told the jury. ”It would go through my brassiere and get on my skin. It would go through the bunny suit and get on my arms.”

    Hernandez, a slight woman who spent 13 years at International Business Machines Corp., applied a chemical coating to aluminum disks.

    A machine that spun the disks would send a fine mist of the chemical coating into the air, she said.

    IBM lawyer Richard Weber said the company’s workplace has data showing that the hard drive factory in San Jose was a safe place to work and said nothing in Wednesday morning’s testimony had shown otherwise.

    The case before Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Robert Baines is the first of more than 200 lawsuits against IBM by manufacturing workers and their families in three states to go to trial.

    Another ex-worker, James Moore, 62, who has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, is also expected to take the stand in the case.

    Attorney Richard Alexander, who represents both Hernandez and Moore, told the jury Monday in his opening argument in the case that the plaintiffs had been regularly exposed to a range of toxins, including benzene, and some combinations of chemicals that had not been adequately tested.

    The sterile ”clean rooms” used in high-tech manufacturing aggravated the problem by recirculating air and exposing workers to the same chemicals over and over, he said.

    Lawyers for IBM said Moore smoked cigarettes for nearly a decade and had been exposed to chemicals in his earlier work on a farm and at a gas station.