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Welding Rod Makers Cleared by Jury

June 27, 2006

CLEVELAND (AP) _ A jury on Tuesday found makers of welding rods were not liable for the health problems of a former civilian worker at a Navy base in a ruling that could influence thousands of other cases that allege welding fumes cause neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease.

Ernesto G. Solis, 57, claims years of exposure to welding fumes at his job at a Navy base in Corpus Christi, Texas, damaged his health because of exposure to manganese within welding rods. Scientific research has been at odds over whether such exposure can lead to Parkinson’s, which diminishes movement and speech.

Solis, who complains of a hand tremor, had his hands folded in front of him when he left the courtroom and said he would have no comment on the verdict.

The Solis case is the first to go to trial of about 3,800 cases filed nationally that were consolidated in 2003 before U.S. District Judge Kathleen O’Malley in Cleveland. The cases seek to draw a link between manganese contained in welding rods to harden a weld and neurological impairment in welders.

A 10-person jury began deliberations Wednesday after testimony and legal arguments for more than two weeks.

Defendants in the Solis case are Cleveland-based Lincoln Electric Holdings Inc.; Troy, Ohio-based Hobart Bros. Co.; TDY Industries Inc., part of Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Technologies Inc.; and ESAB Group Inc., a subsidiary of London-based Charter PLC based in Florence, S.C. TDY stopped making welding products in 1992.

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