back to article AMD hit by birth defects lawsuit

Chip giant AMD was yesterday slapped with a lawsuit from a former worker who claims that exposure to hazardous chemicals during pregnancy had caused multiple birth defects in her son. Maria Ruiz worked in AMD's "Fab 14" clean room from 1988 to 2002 where she claims in the lawsuit, which was filed at the Travis County District …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Timing...?

    With respect to the family involved, isn't it a bit late to file a lawsuit? I mean, sixteen years...!

    Yes, AMD have a responsiblity to the environment and to their employees. And I have no idea how well they were doing their bit two decades ago, but isn't there a statute of limitations on this kind of stuff?

  2. Kevin

    Timing

    Actually if I remember right statue of limitations is till the child turns 18 because at that point all the damage should be evident seeing they went through puberty and are now a adult.

    I could be wrong but I swore thats what it was for when it concerns a child

  3. John Benson
    Alert

    is this why offshore chip fab is so popular?

    Around the middle eighties I worked at a major Silicon Valley manufacturing plant that included chip fab among its multifarious activities. I was working on shop floor data collection and work-in-progress tracking and once or twice walked into the chip fab area. There were solvents in the air that felt like they sliced through your sinuses like a sharp knife. As I gazed around at the workers there, mostly young Asian women, I made a mental note: "There are going to be birth defects lawsuits here at some point".

    I made a comment to a supervisor about the danger of employing women of childbearing age in a chip fab and, as I expected, the comment was shrugged off. (I had an undergraduate minor in organic chemistry and was familiar with the dangers of common solvents, but it shouldn't have taken college studies to realize the danger.)

    What truly amazes me is that we didn't hear more about this kind of lawsuit much earlier. Is human reproductive biology really that robust, or has a scandal been hushed up?

  4. Michael Reed

    Legal conundrum

    IANAL but...

    There can exist a legal situation in which a company is not allowed to exclude fertile women from certain types of hazardous workplace, even though they are aware that the work would expose women to chemicals that could possibly cause birth defects. In the book I read, it seemed that case law had established that the parent, if informed of the medical hazard, could not sue the employer but that the child can. Perhaps this is the case and the woman has waited until her child is old enough to sue, and then sued on her child's perhalf as the child is brain damaged?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Statute of Limitations

    The status of limitations starts from when you are aware that something has caused you injury - at least, that's what I was told by a lawyer when I was looking into some issues because a doctor completely screwed up my eyesight.

    So - unless she just now had someone tell her that inhaling all that stuff at AMD was probably not good for her, I'm not sure how this is going to work. You usually have one year.

    As someone above said, perhaps it is the child who is actually "suing" - with the mother as the representative, though the wording of it leads me to believe its the mother.

    It says she had to get treatment for exposure twice. I'd think - though I'm not a lawyer - that the clock might have started then, or when the child was born.

    It really, truly sucks that a child was born with such devastating problems - I certainly have sympathy. And I sympathize with the mom, for it is a challenge to raise children with mental disabilities. However, I think she would have had a better chance 15 year ago, when the kid came out missing a limb.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Toxic

    By the time someone has absorbed enough toxins to start seeing birth defects that visually obvious in the next generation, they're probably pretty sick themselves. The reproductive system is only one of many that gets trashed by most toxic chemicals. And I can only imagine, if her son has brain damage and a missing arm, what other systems in his body are just damaged enough to probably cause him constant pain and disability.

    Because birth defects and cancer give the most noticeable headlines and are the easiest to diagnose, the public gets the false impression that everything is fine unless those symptoms appear. Medical treatment can bring you through acute exposure sometimes (like her two trips to the hospital), but long-term exposure - especially to combinations of toxins, which can be worse than the sum of their parts - will F you up for good, in innumerable ways.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ john benson

    Thats really interesting.

    Could you google the name of your firm or whatever and check it out? One of my relatives took a brief job in a pharmaceutical company and said the same thing. That the air was thick with toxi-bio-neuro-geny stuff.

  8. Walter Brown
    Alert

    I Wonder

    How do they prosecute this case? do they use current safety standards and laws to judge this case, or do they use the 1988 safety standards and laws? because there's a huge difference...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    medical attention twice and she didn't realize there was a problem?

    After receiving medical attention twice because of exposure why didn't she quit if she was pregnant? Doctors do not even want pregnant women to smoke or drink. This should of been a warning sign to her. Did this happen while she was pregnant?

    One of the chemicals is better known as EGMEA. It was discontinued because the miscarriage rate of women exposed to it at IBM Fishkill was five times the national average. I don't know of any birth defects related to it.

    As somebody else said, Why now? My guess is that she is in the US illegally. With the recent crackdown she trying to get her money before she gets booted out. The reason why American companies like the illegal immigrant is not because they are cheap, buy because they will work in an unsafe environment. Americans will call OSHA.

    American companies are moving offshore not because of labor costs, but because of environmental and safety regulations.

  10. David Wilkinson

    Hard to comment without knowing more

    Was the company negligent in their safety and environmental practices, were the employee's properly trained, properly warned.

    Are the chemicals in question show to cause the side effects mentioned.

    Were the companies HMO doctors pressured to downplay the risks or where they giving the same advice they would to any patient.

    As for waiting to file a lawsuit, the mother probably thought the birth defects were completely unrelated, then at some point something changed her mind.

  11. John Benson

    epiphanies "R" us: googling for my chip fab and birth defects

    A quick look only revealed that my former employer and a bunch of other big Silicon Valley firms were "concerned about" groundwater contamination by nasty solvents, and that they were "worried about" birth defects. One more promising reference was buried in a for-pay legal citation cite.

    This led to my second epiphany of the day (for the first, see my note on bloatware in the comments on the Commodore Pet computer article). Perhaps there IS a massive health problem related to the Golden Goose hatched by Fairchild Semiconductor, and the settlements ARE kept secret to minimize "me-too" lawsuits (legitimate or not). Why hand the lawyers a rope complete with noose around your neck? Make them work for their money, make them do the detective work.

    This brings up an interesting possibility. Do Google and/or Yahoo take "hush money" to sequester search results for paying parties, or, equivalently, demote them so far down in the results that they are effectively invisible to the casual surfer used to scanning only the first page or so? It would certainly explain the paucity of results for "<my chip fab> birth defects"!

    This brings to mind an interesting Rule to Live By: "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you."

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