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Suit alleges that AMD recklessly exposed its employees to toxic substances

Ryan Ruiz, 16, of Austin Texas, shares the same last name with Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) CEO Hector Ruiz.  Ryan, sadly, is the victim of a birth defect.  He is missing the lower right part of his arm and had significant cognitive impairment.  The unfortunate irony of his last name comes in that his conditions are allegedly caused by Hector Ruiz's company, AMD.

Ryan's mom, Maria Ruiz, worked in AMD's Fab 14 clean room from 1988 to 2002.  She was exposed to a wide array of toxic chemicals during her employment with AMD, including ethylene glycol monoethyl ether acetate and 2-ethoxyethyl acetate, known to cause birth defects.  During her employment she had to seek medical attention at least twice due to fume inhalation.

Her exposure concerned her when she discovered she was pregnant.  She inquired about health risks with a local doctor at the Austin Regional Clinic, but was told not to worry about it, and to feel free to return to work.  AMD was perfectly happy to take her back, and she worked most of the remaining course of her pregnancy, continuously exposed to chemicals that are known in the medical community to cause birth defects.

The ending of story is the tragic one previously stated -- her son was born missing part of a limb and with brain damage.

Now Maria is taking the fight to the corporation she feels damaged her and her son.  The lawsuit, filed in Travis County District Court, both targets AMD and includes medical malpractice allegations against the doctors at the clinic she went to for medical consultation.  It names a family/occupational health practitioner and an obstetrics and gynecology specialist, George Marking MD and Alinda Cox MD.  These doctors, according the suit, failed to warn Maria about any possible risks of working with the toxic chemicals at her place of employment, during her pregnancy.

The Ruiz vs. AMD Lawsuit has some high power representation in the form of filing attorney Adam S. Ward, a partner in Allison & Ward, LLP and Steven Phillips of Levy Phillips & Konigsberg LLP (New York).  The enlistment of Levy Phillips & Konigsberg LLP draws attention, in particular, because the firm successfully won an undisclosed settlement for IBM clean-room exposure victims in a similar case.

"Like millions of Americans, Maria Ruiz did not realize that 'clean rooms' are designed to keep damaging dust particles from semiconductor wafers during manufacturing, not to protect men and women exposed to a spectrum of hazardous chemicals and fumes," said Steven Phillips of Levy Phillips & Konigsberg LLP, co-counsel in the case.

The representing firm Allison & Ward, LLP has been airing commercial on local TV in Texas seeking people with knowledge of the clean room, for possible testimony.

The suit seeks exemplary damages and includes a five-count petition charging negligence, breach of warranty, fraudulent concealment and misrepresentation.

AMD doesn't really need much more bad news.  With another weak graphics card launch, another losing quarter, debts piling up, and rivals NVIDIA and Intel piling up record profits, AMD has scant room for more negative press or losses.  Thus this suit marks the kind of sad sort of story in which there are no winners.

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RE: Who's fault?
By RW MD on 11/9/2007 12:31:32 PM , Rating: 5
I would urge that people not rush to judgment in this case. I am radiologist and computer enthusiast. My practice includes obstetrical ultrasound and frequently issues relating to pregnancy and risk of medical treatments comes up. Most commonly the cases I see involve exposure to radiation but other risks include intravenous contrast agents in pregnant women.

The problem here is the details. An observed cause of a missing limb (or portion) at birth is an amniotic band syndrome. This is where the inner lining of the gestational sac develops a perforation and a limb becomes trapped and strangulated in the lining. The mechanism is similar to a turniquet being applied to the arm.

The problem is causality. Why should an inhaled chemical lead to a rare mechanically caused abnormality at birth?

While medicine does not have all the answers, a juror should be presented with reasonable testimony as to what makes scientific sense. We have pretty good ideas about defects due to radiation and drugs. Specific kinds of deformities such as mental retardation, cleft lip, cleft palate, heart defects, spina bifida, etc. come to mind. It is not immediately clear to me the connection to amniotic band syndrome.

Expert testimony would need to be offered about how a chemical would spare the other limbs and cause amputation of one.

Again, regardless of an employer's choices about exposure during pregnancy, the connection to cause and effect really needs to be made and not assumed because of a bad outcome.

Confounding exposures need to be ruled out. Does the patient smoke? Does she live in a community with higher than average birth defects?

One should be very sympathetic to a mother whose child has a birth defect, but the case should be decided carefully by a neutral party.

As a physician, I would prefer a well-informed neutral party. Courts allow one expert for the plaintiff and another for the defense. This allows an extreme viewpoint to be presented as if it were the opinion of 50% of the medical community even if almost all of the medical community shares one view.


RE: Who's fault?
By FITCamaro on 11/9/07, Rating: 0
RE: Who's fault?
By RW MD on 11/9/2007 12:38:08 PM , Rating: 3
The brain damaged portion of the child's birth defects is something that may be more easily connected to a chemical exposure. The point I make is the same...

Avoid rush to judgement. Already people are casting blame.

My own opinion is that people should be as careful as possible during pregnancy because of the unknown. I would want to take as few chances as possible. That still doesn't change the fact that details matter a lot in these cases.

RE: Who's fault?
By MGSsancho on 11/9/2007 4:12:34 PM , Rating: 2
could she not have asked to obtain a copy of the material safety datasheet? your a doc so you know what a MSDS is. but to those who dont, its a stack of papers 3" thick or so that have to be easily available to workers. so they can know everything they might ever want to know about any possible substance they might encounter at the work place. she could have asked for qa copy and ask her doctor to translate it if she had any questions.

but i agree with you, its too early to tell what has happened

RE: Who's fault?
By Parhel on 11/9/2007 4:20:44 PM , Rating: 2
That doesn't make any sense. What MSDS should she have asked for? One for each and every substance in her workplace? That isn't the purpose of an MSDS and it isn't even feasible.

Whether or not AMD is at fault, you can't blame an employee for not reading the MSDS for all of the substances they come into contact with. Even the most anti-lawsuit person on this board would have to admit that that is the job of the employer, not the employee.

RE: Who's fault?
By Andvary on 11/9/2007 6:22:58 PM , Rating: 2
No, that's precisely the purpose of MSDS. Every employer is required by law to keep an available database of MSDSs on every chemical in use. Every worker has the right to access this database. Actually, our safety guys prefer to think that every worker is "required by law" to read through all relevant MSDSs before working. Sick bastards. I've never seen anyone using these sheets though. I'm certainly not going to waste my time on reading this BS as it's mostly useless anyway. :)

So no, she could check that stuff, and it was made readily available to her. And I bet she was required to do so by local safety regulations. And she should have, her being a pregnant woman. It's not a reserch lab, she couldn't be exposed to too many chemicals. Actually, my personal opinion is that MSDSs exist exclusively to make sure employers don't have to answer to legal threats like this.

I should also say that her doctor is either irresponsible or an idiot. Or both. But I won't say that, because those two mentioned chemicals, as far as I know, are not known to cause that particular birth defect described in the article.
I do sympathize her, but hers is a lost cause as her problems have nothing to do with AMD.

RE: Who's fault?
By ira176 on 11/11/2007 1:02:41 AM , Rating: 2
I recall when I worked at RPS (now owned by FedEx)we had specific training about MSDS. Any package we received that had a particular hazardous or potentially dangerous substance had a label on the package. We were required to remove one of the three or four tags which listed the substance and place them in an envelope for the truck driver. We were also informed of the MSDS book about hazardous materials, and how to use it. If a package handling company goes to lengths to inform its employees of potential hazards, I'm sure AMD would do just the same.

RE: Who's fault?
By HighWing on 11/9/2007 5:26:20 PM , Rating: 1
While I do agree with you that perhaps a more in depth study of what caused the birth defects could be useful in placing true blame. I still have to argue with you that regardless of what really caused the birth defects it still does not change the fact that she was pregnant and working with chemicals that are known to cause birth defects. And for that reason her doctor AND supervisor should have known better to inform her of the risks. And blame should rightly fall on both if they failed to do so.

RE: Who's fault?
By masher2 on 11/9/2007 5:58:17 PM , Rating: 3
> "it still does not change the fact that she was pregnant and working with chemicals that are known to cause birth defects"

As is every other woman in the world whose ever been pregnant. Teratologic chemicals are everyhere, almost always in doses small enough to be totally harmless. What dose did she receive at AMD? The word "exposed" is suspiciously devoid of any hard facts.

RE: Who's fault?
By opterondo on 11/9/2007 11:31:26 PM , Rating: 2
This is a little different, in a FAB you stand in front of a clensing basin full of SOLVENT washing die plates all day .. I mean get real.

One ounce of this stuff can kill you it's hardcore. This isn't a little fungi on the wallboard of your house.

Thats why they pay you the big bucks to do it.

RE: Who's fault?
By Lord 666 on 11/9/2007 7:40:13 PM , Rating: 3

There are many other causes for missing limbs; coupled with the cognitive defects and brain damage it would point to another cause than amniotic band syndrome.

The problem here is what appears to be AMD's lack of effective policy or protocal when their clean room employees become pregnant. Because of the chemicals at use, the employee should be transfered to a safer environment.

Secondly, her treating doctor should have proceeded with caution and recommended to request a different working environment... especially since she had issues with fumes two other times.

Why risk the unnecessary exposure to chemicals where their MSDS sheets specifically state "OVEREXPOSURE MAY CAUSE EFFECTS IN HUMANS; TESTIS
DAMAGE/MALE & FEMALE REPRODUCTIVE FERTILITY" and "This product contains the following ingredients for which the State of California has found to
cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm"

The one view shared by medicine should be one of caution, because it does not have all of the answers.

RE: Who's fault?
By crystal clear on 11/10/2007 12:53:15 AM , Rating: 2
I think this is the best reposne/comment yet till now-

Its balanced/well researched/practical/responsible- deserves to get the GREEN rating 6

RE: Who's fault?
By crystal clear on 11/10/2007 12:57:11 AM , Rating: 2
I relate to this post-
RE: Who's fault?
By RW MD on 11/9/07, Rating: 5
By RW MD on 11/9/2007 12:31:32 PM , Rating: 5

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