Lincoln Electric Wins Reversal of $20.5 Million Welding-Rod Verdict

Lincoln Electric Holdings Inc. and other makers of welding rods won a reversal of a $20.5 million jury verdict awarded in 2007 to a welder who claimed their products caused an illness resembling Parkinson’s disease.

The verdict, awarded by a federal jury in Cleveland to welder Jeff Tamraz, was the largest ever in a welding-rod trial. Tamraz claimed that he was harmed by manganese fumes released during the welding process. An appeals court in Cincinnati today set aside the verdict and ordered a new trial, finding that a medical expert’s testimony should have been excluded.

When Dr. Walter Carlini “testified that manganese exposure caused Tamraz’s condition, he went beyond the boundaries of allowable testimony,” a three-judge panel of the court said in a 2-1 decision. His conclusion “was at most a working hypothesis, not admissible scientific ‘knowledge.”

The Tamraz verdict was one of five losses by the industry in 29 cases tried in state and federal courts starting with a $1 million verdict in 2003. A second verdict against the industry, for $2.4 million by a Mississippi jury, was reversed last month by the federal appeals court in New Orleans.

“The court’s ruling vindicates a position defendants have taken throughout this litigation, that lawsuits cannot be based on speculative or hypothetical science,” Brandy Bergman, an industry spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement.

John R. Climaco, Tamraz’s attorney, didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

10,000 Cases

The Tamraz case is one of about 10,000 once consolidated in federal court in Cleveland against Lincoln Electric and other companies, including units of Illinois Tool Works Inc. and Allegheny Technologies Inc. Most suits have been dropped since the initial filings, and fewer than 800 remain.

The lawsuit is Tamraz v Lincoln Electric Co., 1:04-cv- 18948, U.S. District Court, Northern Distr4ict of Ohio (Cleveland). The appeal is Tamraz v. Lincoln Electric Co., 08- 4015/4016, U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Cincinnati).

To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Southfield, Michigan, at mcfisk@bloomberg.net.

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