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Science News Service©™
April 1, 2016 7:21 AM UTC Geneva, Switzerland
Lyon Legal Justice Partners, a not for non-profit legal foundation based in Hill Valley, California, has announced in the wake of a crushing and unexpected loss before the United States 9th Circuit Court of appeals against manufacturers using leaded solder in their products, that its legal team will appeal the unprecedented 12.4 billion dollars awarded to class action members from its client companies that comprise the International Brotherhood of Electronics Assemblers. Plaintiffs originally sought 5 billion dollars as recompense for pain, suffering, lost wages, and lost opportunity by its class of more than 25,000 electronics manufacturing workers worldwide. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge M.R. Strickland; however, after finding defense counsel in contempt on multiple occasions during the trial, added to the award to spite "the slacker," in his words. The United States Supreme Court is the next and final venue for relief or better, as anticipated by Lyon Legal Justice Partners spokesman Britt Tannen, a full dismissal of the lawsuit. His defense appeal strategy includes a countersuit of individual class action signators. "Our hope is that a victory with the Supremes will cause a chilling effect amongst anybody contemplating similar action in the future." IBEA lead attorney Jennifer Parker declined to issue a formal statement.
Research shows that the class action lawsuit was initiated as the result of epidemic proportions of current and former solder station workers falling ill from improperly vented flux smoke and from not being provided protective hand coverings for preventing the transfer of lead content from the solder wire to bare skin, with its subsequent absorption through the skin. Up until the early 2000s, prior to widespread adoption of lead-free solder products, the majority of soldering operations were preformed with solder alloy that contained typically 30-60% lead, the remaining metal being tin, indium, silver, and other trace elements. Workers commonly spent entire eight hour shifts hunched over workbenches, soldering iron in hand, assembling printed circuit boards often with face and nose within a few inches of where hot solder flux wafted from the work point. Those who manned wave soldering machines were exposed extensively to large, open vats of molten solder and flux. Severe skins burns have been reported but thousands of workers, and hundreds of others have incurred damaged or loss of eyesight due to solder splashes.
As with the well-publicized asbestos exposure health repercussions and the heart-breaking long-term issues associated with it, lawyers in countries where large scale electronics manufacturing operations have been in existence for decades are meeting in war rooms to strategize a means of elevating the relatively newfound soldering station operator maladies to a public awareness level that will equal or exceed that of the asbestos crisis. Partial or total loss of a sense of smell from deterioration of nasal cavity issue, swallowing difficulty from mucus membrane atrophy, and acute pulmonary dysfunction due to bronchioles and alveolar-capillary cell death are attributed primarily to solder flux inhalation. Loss of feeling in fingers and hands that endured long-term contact with the leaded solder and, most devastatingly, brain damage from lead absorption have been diagnosed as being caused directly by lead exposure. Doctors and scientists have been and are continuing to collect statistical evidence that purports to directly link both solder flux and lead content to claimants' collective maladies. Dr. E. Brown, an expert in the field of heavy metal toxicology, and employee abuse specialist George McFleigh are confident that this latest win by International Brotherhood of Electronics Assemblers is just the tip of an iceberg looming below the surface of an ocean of litigation.
Electronics manufacturing companies are understandably in full damage control mode and are just now waking up to the potential for the financially disastrous implications if the world's public adopts this issue of "abuse" as it did with asbestos. No statute of limitations exists that would prevent former solderers from as far back as even the World War II era from initiating or joining existing class action lawsuits against companies that employed them. Asbestos settlements, operating under the joint and several liability concept of law, have successfully sued corporations that acquired companies which were responsible for the employee abuses; no limit exists for the line of provenance to ownership. If litigants are able to convince judges and juries that the hazards of human exposure - both short term and long term - to leaded solder and its accompanying flux either were know about or reasonably should have been known about, then "the sky's the limit" in how much restitution money can be collected from the electronics industry. One unnamed source from a major electronics manufacturer hinted that the impetus for creating the entire lead-free (Pb-Free) movement two decades ago was an attempt to eliminate or at lease minimize the level of damage that now seems to be inevitable.
Efforts are in the works to begin a media awareness campaign and funds are being allocated for a massive newspaper and magazine buy for soliciting class action co-defendants. Unlike the asbestos movement, the presence of the Internet will assure that teams of lawyers who believe they have just struck the mother lode of the next big thing in class action lawsuits will reach across the entire Earth in record time. YouTube videos will undoubtedly go viral with testimonies of victims of leaded solder related handicaps and images of suffering by them and their families. Hashtags such as #SaveOurSolderers and #JusticeForSolderers are already trending on Twitter. Social media will help ensure success.
If you or anybody you know is now or has once worked at a job performing soldering operations using solder products with lead content, you might want to search for a group like Lyon Legal Justice Partners to represent you or your acquaintance. If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court's ruling, this could be a real setback to the future of electronics manufacturing.
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Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Written by Kirt Blattenberger for April Fool's Day, 2016. A search of Science News Services, Lyon Legal Justice Partners, and International Brotherhood of Electronics Assemblers turned up no for-real entities by those names.
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Posted April 1, 2016