Federal Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal of Lawsuit Against Ponca City Refinery



A Ponca City woman who blamed her leukemia on chemical emissions from the ConocoPhillips refinery in her hometown has lost her case with the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Samantha Hall grew up around the refinery but two decades later developed a form of leukemia and filed suit in 2014.  Her lawsuit contended she contracted “Acute Myeloid Leukemia with Inversion 16”  because of a chemical known as benzene.

During the course of the trial, Hall used three expert witnesses but U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton,  after listening to their testimony excluded their testimony and granted summary judgment to ConocoPhillips. The judge ruled that Hall in effect had not “presented sufficient evidence linking her disease to benzene exposure.”

The 3 expert witnesses were Dr. David Mitchell, an air modeler; Dr. Steven Gore, an oncologist and Dr. Mary Calvey, an epidemiologist.

The judge excluded the testimony of Dr. Gore after he could not reliably use the highest hourly average-emission level to calculate Ms. Hall’s cumulative exposure to benzene. The judge also ruled errors and inconsistencies over Hall’s exposure contributed to his decision.

The judge also pointed out that Dr. Gore had assumed Hall had lived near the refinery for eight years and based his scientific determination on that. But the court ruled Hall had lived near the refinery for only about four years.

The judge also noted that Dr. Gore “had been inconsistent about what he was calculating.” Further, Dr. Gore could not “rule out the possibility of an idiopathic cause for Hall’s acute myeloid leukemia.”

The Appeals Court agreed indicating Hall needed both expert testimony and quantification of her exposure to benzene,  but without the testimony of the two doctors, she could not prove the link. It ruled that Judge Joe Heaton did not err in excluding the testimony and in granting summary judgment to ConocoPhillips.