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A major break through in understanding the effect of dioxin exposure was published in December 1995 by Dieter Flesch-Janys and others, “Exposure to Polychlorinated Dioxins and Furans (PCDD/F) and Mortality in a Cohort of Workers from Herbicide-producing Plant in Hamburg, Federal Republic of Germany,” 142 American Journal of Epidemiology 1165-1175 (December 1, 1995). Dr. Flesch-Janys reports a significant in finding: a dose-relationship between dioxin and cancer and heart disease mortality for workers of a pesticide manufacturing plant located in Hamburg, Germany that had produced phenoxy herbicides including 2,4-D, chlorophenols, and other herbicides and insecticides known to be contaminated with dioxins and furans for a period of thirty-two years.

We report here a case study of millworkers in Northern California and the facts discovered in four lawsuits which support and confirm the hazard presented by dioxins to industrial workers and the challenge of proving such cases two decades after exposure.


The actual proof of dioxin exposure was in a fat sample taken from Tim Skaggs who died of leukemia in 1991 at age 40, having been exposed to Woodlife during the years 1971-72 while employed by Simpson Lumber Company in Arcata [Humboldt County; county seat Eureka], California.

In an investigation of three other leukemias at the Simpson mill by the State Department of Health, Simpson concealed from officials that for years it had used wood preservatives with pentachlorophenol. As a result the State Department of Health concluded this cancer cluster arose from unknown causes.

Alexander Law Group, LLP, LLP, in light of the scientific literature concerning the generation of dioxins in the manufacturing of chlorinated hydrocarbons and the proven relationship between dioxins and soft-tissue sarcomas, undertook an expensive and detailed investigation which began with an in depth analysis of pentachlorophenol and other lawsuits in the United States. See A Developing Toxic Tort: Lumber Mills, Log Cabins, Leukemia, Lymphomas and Soft Tissue Sarcomas – The Case Against Pentachlorophenol, 21 CTLA Forum 195 (1991).

In a three year investigation and numerous interviews of mill workers, many of whom had no recollection of Tim’s part-time work on the paint line where Woodlife was applied twenty years ago, a retired paint line operator confirmed that Woodlife had been used in painting machines, but he had no recollection of Tim working there. Although Simpson’s mill records no longer existed, its purchasing agent confirmed it had purchased Woodlife by the barrel from Champion International. Champion’s sales manager during the 1960s and early 1970s testified that Woodlife was sold to Simpson’s Arcata plant for use on the paint line. To prove Tim’s exposure, a fat sample was taken from his abdomen by a Stanford plastic surgeon and analyzed for dioxins and furans suspected to have contaminated Woodlife by Triangle Laboratories Inc., Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

After an extensive search, a twenty year old can of pentachlorophenol was located and tested, revealing an 80% correlation between the pattern of dioxins found in Tim’s fat and those found in the sample product.

The following is a detailed report of the facts and scientific conclusions reached in these cases by our expert and legal team.


Tim Skaggs, [born on March 5, 1950] died on October 17, 1991 from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Tim worked for Simpson Lumber Company at its Arcata mill starting at age 21. His initial employment as a night shift laborer resulted in his working at various jobs, including assignments to the paint line department where he handled and sawed lumber treated with Woodlife, a wood preservative manufactured and sold to Simpson by Champion.

Woodlife’s principal ingredient was pentachlorophenol which was contaminated with dioxins and furans, the most carcinogenic chemicals known to man. Pentachlorophenol is an known and established carcinogen and is so listed by the State of California as a Proposition 65 cancer causing agent. It was Tim’s exposure to this dangerous and defective chemical during the period 1971 through late 1972 that caused Tim’s leukemia and that of his co-workers at the Arcata mill. The diagnosis of leukemia in Tim some 17 years after being exposed to this known carcinogen was consistent with the latency period for this type of chemically induced cancer.

Although this action sought to hold Champion liable for negligence in not warning about the hazards of this product, which Champion knew was being handled improperly by its customers, and for breach of warranty, the primary legal basis for this action was for selling a defective product.

Tim is survived by his high school bride, Virginia, who was born on March 24, 1950 [now age 43] and two children, his son Clifford born September 16, 1969 [age 23] and Kristina born January 16, 1971 [age 22].

The investigation of Tim Skaggs’ leukemia was initiated by his personal physician Dr. Alan Glasseroff. The State Department of Health’s report of that investigation documented three leukemias [of which Timothy Skaggs was one] and one non-Hodgkins lymphoma at the Arcata plant. It concluded: A statistically significant 16-fold increase in the acute leukemia rate and 7-fold excess for combined acute leukemia and non-hodgkin’s lymphoma rate were calculated. We cannot rule out that this cluster could have happened by chance though the probability of a chance occurrence is very low.” Evaluation of A Potential Cluster of Hematopoietic Cancers among Workers in a Wood Manufacturing Mill in California, California Department of Health Services, Berkeley, April 23, 1990.[emphasis added]


Pentachlorophenol is an extremely dangerous carcinogen when it is used to preserve wood. Environmental Health Criteria 71, Pentachlorophenol, World Health Organization, Geneva, 1987, pp. 11-12.

Pentachlorophenol has been used for years to preserve telephone poles, fence posts, and water-exposed decking. In the 1960’s it was introduced to preserve finished mill work, siding, casements, mullions, and to treat perimeter wall logs in log home kits marketed to the public.

Pentachlorophenol is a halogenated hydrocarbon, composed of a benzene ring to which is attached a hydroxide radical making a phenol which is then chlorinated. By-product contaminants of the process include tetrachlorophenol, hexachlorobenzene and various dioxins and furans. These chemicals are without any doubt the most toxic chemicals ever known to mankind. Grandstanders such as the late Californian Assemblyman B. T. Collins may drink malathion in front of television cameras to demonstrate the claimed safety of this insecticide, but nobody ever voluntarily places oneself in contact with any material that has even 1 part in 1,000,000,000,000 of dioxin, because it is a proven carcinogen.

Hexachlorodibenzodioxin appeared in commercially produced pentachlorophenol in the United States during the 1970s in amounts ranging up to 100 parts per million. As the toxicology evidence will unfold at trial, concentrations at this high level are outrageously dangerous.

Pentachlorophenol by itself is a known and proven carcinogen. It is readily absorbed by the lungs, skin and stomach. While there may be differences in the biological response of rabbits and humans to 10% solution of pentachlorophenol, the probable oral and dermal lethal doses for a 150 pound person, based on the animal toxicity literature, are 1.09 ounces orally and 4.4 ounces dermally. Very little is needed to kill.

The body absorbs PCP and discharges it in a number of ways. While much of it is excreted in urine, it accumulates in tissues, particularly muscle, bone marrow, and fat. Braun, et al., The Pharmokinetics and Metabolism of Pentachlorophenol in Rats [1977], Toxical. Appl. Pharmacol. 41:395-406. That is where it does long term damage to the formulation of blood cells.

The “no effect” and “lethal” dose limits of pentachlorophenol are not greatly different. For example, at a dose of 80 milligrams per kilogram, no experimental animals died. At a dose of 100 milligrams 83% died and at 110 milligrams 100% died. Kehoe, et al., Toxic Effects Upon Rabbits of Pentachlorophenol and Sodium Pentachlororphenate [1959], J. Ind. Hyg. Tox. 21: 160. This is important to understand: substantial amounts of pentachlorophenol can be absorbed with no observable effect.

German literature reports health problems due to residential exposure to PCP. Brandt and Schmidt, in an article entitled Chronische Lebererkrankung durch langjahrige Intoxikation im Haushalt mit Pentachlorophenol [1977], Deutschen Gesellschaft fur innere Medizin, pp. 1609-11, reported fluctuating abnormal liver enzymes directly associated with moving into and out of a dwelling which had its interior treated with PCP. Later, Gebefugi reported health problems associated with residential interior exposure to pentachlorophenol. Gebefugi, et al., Occurrence of Pentachlorophenol in Enclosed Environments [1979] Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 3:269-300.

The health effects observed in both the occupational and residential exposures, especially those related to the skin and respiratory tract are best explained by laboratory findings involving immune system studies of laboratory animals. In a series of experiments reported in the early 1980’s, Nancy Kirkvliet, et al., found that technical grade pentachlorophenol causes immune suppression in animals which she has linked to dioxins contained in pentachlorophenol and found that hepta and hexa dioxin are implicated. Kerkvliet, et al., Humoral Immunotoxicity of Polychlorinated Diphenyl Ethers, Penoxypheols, Dioxins and Furans Present as Contaminants of Technical Grade Pentachlorophenol [1985], Toxicology, 36:307-24 (see extensive articles cited).

Pentachlorophenol was first known as a carcinogen in 1978. Greene, et al., Familial and Sporadic Hodgkin’s Disease Associated with Occupational Wood Exposure, The Lancet, September 16, 1978, pp. 626-27; Goldstein, et al., Effects of Pentachlorophenol on Hepatic Drug/Metabolizing Enzymes and Porphyria Related to Contamination with Chlorinated Dibenzo-p-Dioxins and Dibenzo-Furans [1977] Biochem. Pharmacol. 26:1549-57.

Adverse health effects associated with exposure to dioxins and furans, such as found in pentachlorophenol, are well documented. Schwetz et al., The Effect of Purified and Commercial Grade Pentachlorophenol on Rat Embryonal and Fetal Development [1974], Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 28:151-61. Dioxins were considered carcinogens in rodents since the late 1970’s. Kociba, et al., Results of a Two Year Chronic Toxicity and Oncogenicity Study of 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-Dioxin in Rats [1978], Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 46:279-303; Van Miller et al., Increased Incidence of Neoplasms in Rats Exposed to Low Levels of 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-Dioxin [1977], Chemosphere 10:625; Muranyi-Kovacs, et al., Bioassay of 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic Acid for Carcinogenicity in Mice [1976] British Journal of Cancer 33:626.

The United States Department of Agriculture has vigorously opposed the use of both pentachlorophenol for residential use and warned that this product “should never be used inside . . . for any reason.” U.S.D.A. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory, General Technical Report FPL-11, Protecting Log Cabins from Decay [1977], p.2.

Numerous studies associate occupations in the lumber and sawmill industry with acute leukemias, Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas and multiple myelomas. Milham, Study of Mortality Experience of AFL-CIO United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of American, 1969-70 [1974], DHEW Pub. No. 74-129, Springfield, Virginia, National Technical Information Service; Jappinen, et al., Cancer Incidence of Workers in Finnish Sawmill [1989], Scand. J. Work Environ. Health 15:18-23; Morton and Marjanovic, Leukemia Incidences By Occupation in Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan Area [1984] Am. J. Ind. Med. 6:185-205; Burkart, Leukemia in Hospital Patients with Occupational Exposure to Sawmill Industry[1982], West. J. Med. 137:440-441; Erickson, et al., Study on Malignant Mesenchymal Tumors of Soft Tissues and Exposure to Chemical Substances [1979], Lahartidningen 76:3872-75; Hardell, Malignant Lymphoma of Histiocytic Type and Exposure to Phenoxyacetic Acids or Chlorophenols [1979], Lancet i:56; Milham and Hessler, Hodgkin’s Disease in Woodworkers [1967] Lancet ii: 136-37.

Exposures to chlorophenol herbicides in the lumber industry have been the principal cause of the increased risk of hematopoietic cancers. Erickson, ibid.; Hardell, ibid.

Hardell in a 1981 study of forestry workers exposed to chlorophenols found an eight-fold increase in soft tissue sarcomas and malignant lymphomas due to herbicides containing chlorophenols, primarily PCP. Hardell, et al., Malignant Lymphoma and Exposure to Chemicals, Especially Organic Solvents, Chlorophenols and Phenoxy Acids: A Case-Control Study [1981], British Journal of Cancer, 43:169-76.

The State Department of Health study, supra, of the reported cancers at Simpson’s Arcata mill shows the latency period from exposure to this carcinogen, until the clinical detection of cancer, was fourteen to seventeen years. Accordingly, Skaggs exposure in 1971-73 to be consistent with his being diagnosed with leukemia in 1988.

Today pentachlorophenol is recognized as a carcinogen by the State of California.


Fred Jacobson worked for Simpson Timber Company for 35 years. Between 1966 and 1980 he was Simpson Timber’s Arcata Plant’s buyer and purchasing agent and was responsible for purchasing all chemical products used in the Arcata plant. The Arcata plant used to have a paint line which included a curtain coater that was used to coat redwood siding with Woodlife Clear RTU.

According to Mr. Jacobson, the only product purchased for use at the Arcata plant was industrial Woodlife Clear RTU. This product was delivered to the Arcata Plant in 55 gallon drums for use in the paint line. Woodlife was used on the paint line at the Arcata plant until the paint line was shut down in 1972.

During the period 1970 through 1974 Mark Taifer was the chief executive responsible for the production of wood preservatives for U.S. Plywood-Champion. He testified that the company produced Woodlife from the period 1970 until 1974.

During the period 1966 to 1974 there were discussions concerning medical literature associating illness or disease with pentachlorophenol and Taifer was told there were questions concerning whether an impurity present in pentachlorophenol might be deemed dangerous to humans. The discussions were with Lester Winebrenner in Kalamazoo and possibly Jim Knauss. Lester Winebrenner and Jim Knauss were the most informed persons with Champion with regard to the hazards of Woodlife and pentachlorophenol that Taifer can remember. In his view the person most familiar with the toxic properties of pentachlorophenol during the period 1970-1976 was Lester Winebrenner.

James S. Knauss had been responsible for quality control and in 1970 assumed the duties of technical service manager for U.S. Plywood-Champion Papers. He testified that when Woodlife was used on redwood or red cedar it was more prone to bloom with these species of wood. Knauss tested blooming on many different shapes and formulations of wood and tested Woodlife on redwood and on bevelled siding. It was more prone to bloom on the rough side of siding when it occurred. Knauss confirms that allowing dust to get into the air which contains pentachlorophenol was a hazard.

Lester Winebrenner was the technical director responsible for all technical issues concerning Woodlife at Champion’s main headquarters in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Mr. Winebrenner identified a letter from Jim Knauss to Lester Winebrenner of December 19, 1967 in which Knauss stated: . “It should be noted that we currently handle penta incorrectly. In addition, our customers handle the finished penta solution incorrectly.”

In his own letter of January 8, 1968, Mr. Winebrenner wrote “in some instances we know that our customers are a little careless in the handling of Woodlife and certainly suggest that they instruct their workers to apply good habits of personal hygiene, use neoprene-lined gloves, aprons, boots and other protective clothing.”

Frank Foss a former sales representative for Champion International. He was the salesman who had the Simpson Timber account between June 1967 and September 1973. He personally took all of Simpson Timber’s orders and was Simpson’s main contact with Champion.

Foss visited Simpson Timber’s Arcata plant approximately 23 times between June 1967 and September 1973, and one of his contacts at the Arcata plant was Fred Jacobson, Simpson’s purchasing agent.

Foss also confirms that Woodlife Clear RTU was sold to Simpson Timber’s Arcata plant and was used on the paint line, to coat redwood siding.

Foss had been told by Champion’s technical department that redwood siding had the propensity to bloom after an application of Woodlife. Generally when blooming occurred it was a piece of wood that absorbed an inordinate amount of Woodlife, took a long time to dry and crystal sometimes would come to the surface. Foss was aware that when sanding or sawing wood that had been treated with pentachlorophenol the pentachlorophenol crystals might dispel into the air.

Throughout his employment with Champion Foss was never told at any time that there had been documented cases of pentachlorophenol poisoning, that pentachlorophenol poisoning can result from a massive dose or from a prolonged exposure to a sublethal dose.

At no time when Foss worked for Champion did he ever alert any of his customers that they should be alert for any specific medical conditions that their employees might have who work with Woodlife.

No one at Champion ever told Foss at any time to be alert for an acne condition that might be associated with individuals working in the application of Woodlife, and he was never told to be alert for any rash condition in such persons. Foss was never told at any time by anyone at Champion that he should inquire of customers with regard to any of the following symptoms in persons who work with Woodlife: rashes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, dizziness, excessive perspiration, conjunctivitis or crusting of the eyes, depression or memory loss, insomnia or irritability, tingling or numbness in the extremities, blood in the urine or stool, burning sensation in the trachea or bronchi, nose bleeds, asthma-like symptoms, altered liver function, kidney or bladder infection or complaints, immune complaints, ongoing infections, children born with abnormalities, low sperm count, soft tissue sarcomas, unexplained fevers or night sweats, herpes sores or any skin disturbances below the eyes, at the temples or at the back of the neck or ears. Foss was never told of the possibility of the skin absorbing pentachlorophenol as a result of handling of non-pressure treated wood that had received pentachlorophenol or Woodlife.

Unlike Mr. Winebrenner, Mr. Foss has no understanding whether or not leather or rubber gloves were appropriate protection for handling Woodlife products. Mr. Foss testified, “I don’t know about the safety because I’m not a medical doctor.” He never recommended that respiratory gear should be used by employees who were working in applying Woodlife.

Foss was not aware at any time during his work in sales in the 11 western states that Champion executives had written memos to each other in which they stated “it should be noted that we currently handle penta incorrectly. In addition our customers handle the finished penta solution incorrectly” and “unfortunately, as you are no doubt aware, we had badly used pentachlorophenol over the years and do not take the normal precautions for a product of this toxicity.”

On September 5, 1991, the day of his deposition, Mr. Stafford was employed by Simpson Timber Company as a Senior Planning and Control Analyst and Project Manager. He confirms that beginning in 1966 until the Arcata plant closed, Fred Jacobson was the Purchasing Agent or Purchasing Manager in charge of ordering raw materials for the Arcata plant. Stafford explained that the paint line used a curtain coater to apply a repellent to the back of each piece and to put a second coat of paint on the face of the board. Altogether there were three curtain coaters, an airless sprayer, and infra-red drying ovens that were all part of the process. Stafford believes the paint line shut down in 1973. Stafford had no prior knowledge that Don Laughman, Section Chief, Coatings Research at Simpson Timber, had written Lester Winebrenner on March 21, 1962, reporting that Simpson was “curtain coating Woodlife on both faces of redwood siding, which we sell as water repellant treated siding” and that “Woodlife to which the E.H.E.C. had not been added sometimes curtains and sometimes does not.” According to Stafford the person who would know more precisely than Stafford what kind of solvents were used on the paint line would be the operator at the time, Harry Kirby and Fred Jacobson, the Purchasing Manager. Harry Kirby knew the difference between Woodlife and other items in use on the paint line because the nature of his job required that he knew each product that was used, its purpose, its handling, its mixing, and what it took to clean it up.

Mr. Kirby from March 1962 to March 1984 worked continuously in the Arcata mill of Simpson Timber Company. He worked on the paint line continuously between 1962 and whenever the paint line shut down in 1972. In 1963 he was a helper on the paint line. After two years as a helper he became the operator. Mr. Kirby recalls brushing Woodlife when he was the operator during the period from 1968 through the shutdown. Mr. Kirby recalls using Woodlife on the paint line for clear siding, occasionally as back prime for white paint, and that a brush was used to coat the ends with Woodlife. In addition, it was sprayed in the booth.

During the two (2) months Lloyd Taylor worked on the paint line in 1967, he recalls a curtain-coater was used to apply Woodlife.

Tim Skaggs testified at his deposition that he began work at Simpson on March 8, 1971. He started on the night shift as a laborer and would be assigned to work where he was needed. An hour lunch break would take place between 9:00 and 10 o’clock and Skaggs would eat where he was working that shift, in the dry sorter shack, the planing mill, or on the paint line.

Tim described the paint line as having curtain coaters which would spray the lumber with paint or Woodlife, it included three dryers and two curtain coaters. One would do one side and flip the board over and then send it back to the other one. One of Skaggs’ jobs on the paint line was to work where the lumber came off the paint line itself and he would stack it by hand. On the paint line he was handling lumber without gloves that was almost always dry but sometimes, when the sealant wouldn’t permeate, “it would be wetter.” Very few people wore gloves on the paint line handling the warm treated wood, according to Skaggs. Another job he did in the paint line room was to trim lumber with a small trim saw located on the south wall. He also was assigned to work on the paper wrapper in the paint line room. The boards that were handled at the paper wrapping machine had been coated with a sealant. Of all the times Skaggs worked in the paint line room, half the time was spent on the trim saws, a quarter of the time was spent off loading at the paint line and a quarter of the time was spent on the paper wrapper.

Alan Glaseroff, M.D. testified at his deposition that Tim was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia at Stanford University. He first learned from Dr. Neil Water that Dr. Water had three people who had some type of leukemia and all worked at the same place. It was at that time that Dr. Glaseroff contacted the State of California to explore a cancer cluster.

Dr. Glaseroff was aware of Woodlife prior to this case. It contains a chemical within it known as dioxin which is a “big issue up here.” There have been a number of dioxin concerns with dumping in the bay and two pump hill plants having to change their process of bleaching wood from a non-chlorine process to get rid of dioxin contamination. The statement that is generally attached to dioxin is that it is “the most potent carcinogen known to man.” In Dr. Glaseroff’s opinion, Tim Skaggs’ cancer was secondary to his workplace exposure to PCP (pentachlorophenol).

Dr. Frank Gardner is a Professor of Medicine, Division Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas. He received an M.D. degree from Northwestern Medical School, interned at San Francisco Hospital, had served residencies at San Francisco Hospital and University of California Hospital, San Francisco. Dr. Gardner has served as an Assistant Professor of Medicine on the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School and from 1966-1975 was a Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. From 1975 through 1990 Dr. Gardner was a Professor of Medicine and Director of Hematology/Oncology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. Dr. Gardner is certified in internal medicine, has received numerous honors and has published approximately 340 articles, chapters, monographs and other publications in his field. He is well respected by Champion’s hematologist Dr. William Creger.

In Dr. Gardner’s opinion pentachlorophenol exposure causes acute lymphoblastic leukemia. A study of the health effects of munition packing cases treated with pentachlorophenol handled in Madison County, Kentucky showed pentachlorophenol residues ranging from 16 parts per billion to 551 parts per billion and confirmed six cases of leukemia among former Army depot employees: five chronic lymphocytical leukemias and one chronic myelocytic leukemia. Two additional leukemia cases were identified from the community which might have a connection with the 1968 munition packing cases. One was an individual who emphasized his exposure to pentachlorophenol (PCP) by recalling the munition cases which he purchased from the Army depot during the time the 1968 wood was being sold and used to construct a tobacco curing shed. He spent large amounts of time in the shed until his 1977 diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Dr. Gardner reports that a study of of saw mill workers in southern Oregon reviewed hospital admissions in three counties where there was a three-fold increase in leukemia suggesting that chlorophenol could be a cause. He confirms that Dr. Hardell’s 1981 article in the British Journal of Cancer studying 105 non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas in patients exposed to chlorophenol and toxic acids shows an association between pentachlorophenol and tumors of the B Cell Lymphocytic line and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, as similarly occurred at the Arcata Mill. In summary, Hardell’s investigation suggests that exposure to organic solvents, chlorophenols and/or phenoxy acids constitutes a risk factor for malignant lymphoma. In addition a case study from the Mayo Clinic in 1963 show an association between pentachlorophenol and leukemia.

Dr. Gardner was expected to testify at trial that pentachlorophenol is irritating to the bone marrow causing mutagenic or chromosome abnormalities that are stabilized for a period of months or years and then the disease is activated by mechanisms unknown to us to develop into an acute malignancy.

People that are trimming wood that has been treated with chlorophenol have a higher level exposure than those that had been involved in packaging. In Mr. Skaggs’ case the exposure routes for pentachlorophenol were both dermal and by inhalation. With regard to pentachlorophenol absorbed through the skin the temperature of the wood is significant because a warm agent will allow better evaporation because there would be more vapor.

In Dr. Gardner’s professional opinion, to a reasonable medical certainty, pentachlorophenol can cause acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Tim Skaggs’ exposure to pentachlorophenol was the probable cause of his acute leukemia.

Dr. Richard Clapp holds a doctorate in epidemiology. He was expected to testify that there is substantial, reliable, and credible epidemiologic evidence for the proposition that pentachlorophenol causes leukemia, including acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

In Dr. Clapp’s opinion, to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, exposure to pentachlorophenol was the most likely cause of Timothy Skaggs’ leukemia. The International Association for Research on Cancer has determined that pentachlorophenol has the capacity to induce cancer. The State of California lists pentachlorophenol as a cancer-causing substance under Proposition 65. The Finnish epidemiologic study, “Cancer Incidence of Workers in Finnish Sawmill,” is confirmatory evidence that exposure to penta-chlorophenols can more than double the risk of developing leukemia. The appearance of four blood/lymph cancers at Mr. Skaggs’ sawmill was sixteen times the expected rate of leukemia given the size of the workforce at the sawmill.


In the Skaggs case the plaintiffs claimed that Defendant Champion International was negligent in the production, retailing and distribution of Woodlife Clear RTU contaminated with dioxins and furans, was strictly liable for producing and distributing a defective chemical product and additionally liable for breaching an implied warranty that Woodlife with pentachlorophenal was of good and merchantable quality, safe and fit for its intended use. It was also claimed that the Defendants knew this product was hazardous, misrepresented that it was safe to use and concealed from Simpson that many people inadvertently and routinely handled it in a dangerous manner.


This case combined a survival action [the original personal injury action filed by Tim Skaggs prior to his death ] and a wrongful death action under California law brought by his family. CCP§377.34 sets forth the measure of damages in a survival action which are essentially the same as those in a personal injury action except general damages for pain and suffering cannot be recovered. In addition to monetary loses, the measure of damages for wrongful death under California law is defined as “reasonable compensation for the loss, love, care, comfort and society” to be determined by a jury based upon all the facts and circumstances of the case.

Tim Skaggs died at age 41 and prior to his illness he was earning $28,800.00 per year. According to U.S. government Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average work-life expectancy in the lumber industry is to age 57.

The Skaggs case settled before Judge Michael Brown, following the denial of Champion’s motion for summary judgment and after the completion of expert depositions before the scheduled trial. While denying liability, the Defendant paid $550,000 in settlement of all claims, a substantial recovery in Humboldt County where the primary industries are logging and fishing and average income is in the lowest twenty percent of California counties. The complete legal file in Skaggs v. Champion International is archived with the Clerk of the Humboldt County Superior Court, No. DR 85488.

Alexander Law Group, LLP, LLP also served as plaintiffs’ counsel in three related dioxin/pentachlorophenol caused wrongful death cases involving Simpson employees who had worked at the Arcata plant. Settlements in those cases are confidential. Gordon v. U. S. Plywood- Champion Papers, Humboldt County Superior Court Action No. 92 DR 0135; Carper v. U. S. Plywood-Champion Papers, Humboldt County Superior Court No. 92 DR 0378; Freeman v. U.S. Plywood-Champion Papers, Humboldt County Superior Court No. 93 DR 0275.