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Pa. Supreme Court Rules Family's Lawsuit Against Chemical Companies For Father's Death Allowed To Proceed

PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) -- A groundbreaking civil case involving the long-time groundskeeper and superintendent at a local golf course will proceed, thanks to a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The case is being brought by the family of Thomas Walsh, who died 12 years ago at age 56 of leukemia. He spent much of his career maintaining golf course greens, tees and fairways using powerful pesticides.

Walsh is the father of KDKA sports anchor Rich Walsh, who along with his family, is suing several major chemical companies claiming that Mr. Walsh's leukemia was caused by chemical exposure.

"I miss my dad," says Rich. "I wish he was here. No one deserves to die that young."

For the past decade, the Walsh family has waged a David and Goliath legal battle against a dozen major chemical companies including Monsanto, Dow Chemical and Bayer.

"We're David. We're a small family taking on these huge multi-billion dollar companies. It's taken a long time, but people are seeing now what these chemicals can do," says Rich.

The state Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides of the lawsuit in October of 2019.

"My dad was 56-years-old when he died. He had nothing wrong with him," says Rich Walsh.

(Photo Credit: the Walsh Family)

Thomas Walsh used powerful pesticides like RoundUp to maintain golf courses in the area when he worked as superintendent. He died more than 12 years ago from leukemia. A lawsuit was filed against the chemical companies involved, claiming his cancer was caused by the pesticides.

In 2018, a panel of Superior Court judges ruled that the Walsh family's medical experts will be allowed to testify at trial.


A trial court judge previously ruled that the family's experts should not be allowed to testify. A panel of three Superior Court judges reversed that opinion, allowing the suit to proceed with the expert testimony.

The decision was then appealed to the Supreme Court, where they affirmed the Superior Court's decision.

According to attorney Michael D'Amico, the case is landmark.

"Today is a win for the Walsh family and a win for any plaintiff in the commonwealth that is sick, suffering from any kind of cancer, from toxic exposure. It's the Supreme Court saying 'you will have a voice,'" said D'Amico, adding they're in it for the long run.

He says there are other cases around the country that raise the issue of the toxicity of individual pesticides and their ability to cause disease in humans. But, as far as he knows, this is the first of its type in Pennsylvania, and perhaps the first in the nation to question what happens when a human is exposed to multiple pesticides.

Another case like the Walsh family's is going through the court system in California. There is movement this week in that case as well.

A California appeals court has upheld a verdict that RoundUp caused cancer in a school groundskeeper, but the panel also slashed the damage award.

The San Francisco Chronicle says the 1st District Court of Appeal on Monday found there was evidence to support a 2018 jury finding that Monsanto, RoundUp's maker, acted with "conscious disregard for public safety." But it reduced the damages awarded to Dewayne Johnson from $78.5 million to $21.5 million.

Johnson blamed his cancer on the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup and Ranger Pro.

Monsanto's owner, Bayer AG, says the entire verdict should have been tossed.

(TM and © Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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