The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the dismissal of two putative class actions that sought medical monitoring for workers and nearby residents of Pennsylvania factories that used beryllium. Sheridan v. NGK Metals Corp., No. 08-4873 (3d Cir. 06/07/10). The two lawsuits alleged negligence in connection with beryllium exposure and sought to establish a medical monitoring trust fund based on the plaintiffs’ alleged increased risk of developing chronic beryllium disease. The district court dismissed the claims on the ground that plaintiffs had not established an increased risk of contracting the disease, and plaintiffs appealed.
Affirming the district court, the appellate court explained that, to obtain medical monitoring under Pennsylvania law, plaintiffs must prove that because of exposure to chemicals, they have a significantly increased risk of contracting a serious disease. As to beryllium disease, only certain people have the specific genetic marker that can recognize beryllium particles in the lungs as antigens, potentially leading to the formation of granulomas. Expert testimony conflicted over what percentage of the population would become sensitized, and only one of the multiple plaintiffs had developed beryllium sensitivity. The court concluded that the plaintiffs had not shown they were at a significantly increased risk of contracting the disease as a proximate result of their alleged exposure.