WILMINGTON, Delaware, May 8, 2012 – LK’s birth defect litigation team scored a legal victory today by defeating a summary judgment motion brought by Optek Technology, Inc. (“Optek”) in a birth defect lawsuit1 alleging Optek’s negligence caused one of its former workers’ sons, an LK client, to be born with debilitating birth defects twenty-six years ago. Optek’s former employee and mother of the young man who was born with birth defects has asserted a loss of consortium claim for losses associated with her son’s injuries. In support of summary judgment, Defendant Optek, a microelectronics manufacturer with facilities in Texas, argued that Plaintiffs’ claims are time-barred because a two-year statute of limitations applies. Plaintiffs conceded that the two-year statute applies; however, Plaintiffs argued that the two-year period of limitations did not begin to run until the physically injured plaintiff was on notice of the potential tort claim.
Ruling that Delaware’s discovery exception applies to the facts of the case after conducting a fact-intensive inquiry, the Court held that the plaintiff was not time-barred from bringing his claim since factual questions surround whether the plaintiff remained “blamelessly ignorant” of a potential claim, even after injuries were apparent, until he was on “inquiry notice” of the legally actionable injury over 22 years after his toxic in utero exposures. In denying summary judgment, the Hon. Jan R. Jurden held that Plaintiffs met their burden of asserting facts necessary to potentially invoke the tolling exception. Specifically, Judge Jurden found it relevant that the former employee mother of the physically injured plaintiff, had no education, training or experience in medicine, toxicology, epidemiology or other scientific disciplines to know of the potential cause of her son’s injuries. Judge Jurden further found relevant that when the former employee mother asked her supervisor while pregnant whether working with certain chemicals during her pregnancy was safe, her supervisor assured her that it was safe and that the chemicals would have no effect whatsoever on her then-unborn baby. The Court also found it relevant that the former employee mother’s supervisor went on to assure her when she suffered toxemia during her third trimester that the chemicals could not have been the cause of the toxemia.
The Court went on to note that when the former employee mother asked her doctor whether her work could be a cause of her toxemia, she was told it was not, and that each of the physically injured plaintiff’s subsequent doctors indicated they had not known the cause of his injuries. Because these doctors had told the former employee mother and her son that the cause of the birth defects was unknown, the former employee mother did not continue to inquire into the possible cause of her son’s birth defects. Only once the former employee mother consulted with knowledgeable attorneys in October 2008, had she or her son suspected that his problems could be attributed to chemicals she worked with at Optek. Prior to learning from her attorneys that her son’s injuries could be related to her work at Optek, the former employee mother had never known of any reports in the media or elsewhere about litigation involving cleanrooms, semiconductors, chemicals or birth defects. Accordingly, the Court held that a jury must ultimately decide whether Plaintiffs were on inquiry notice of their claims at a time in excess of two years prior to when they filed their birth defect lawsuit, such that they would be time-barred from asserting their claims.
Plaintiffs are represented by the birth defect litigation team of LK, a nationally recognized law firm with offices in New York, New Jersey, and Georgia, specializing in catastrophic personal injury litigation, including birth defect litigation, as well as by co-counsel at Bifferato LLC, Thornton & Naumes, LLP, Waters & Kraus, LLP, and the Law Offices of Amanda Hawes.
Employees of the semiconductor and microelectronics industry, particularly those who worked in or near clean rooms, can be heavily exposed to reproductively toxic chemicals and substances when owners, operators or controllers of the manufacturing premises do not observe appropriate standards, principles and guidelines respecting reproductive health and safety practices. Children born of exposed employees are frequently born with devastating birth defects. LK is committed to pursuing justice for these individuals and to deterring companies from maintaining hazardous workplaces.
ATTENTION: If you believe that your child’s birth defect was caused by exposure to toxic chemicals or hazardous conditions in your workplace, you and your child may be entitled to compensation. For a free consultation, please call our experienced birth defect lawyers via our 24/7 toll-free hotline at 1-800-988-8005 or by submitting a confidential email inquiry (see form above).
1 Daniels, et al. v. Optek Technology, Inc., et al., DE Superior Court, C.A. No. 10C-10-002 JRJ.