Print 110 comment(s) - last by clovell.. on Nov 12 at 3:19 PM

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 augiem on 11/9/2007 1:07:00 PM , Rating: 1
I can't believe all the people on here so willing to shift the blame from the company that exposed her to chemicals to the doctor who simply gave her advice.

Which party logically has more knowledge of and is aware of exposure to random toxins used in the chip making process? Oh, a random doctor?! I think not! Oh wait, AMD is not responsible because all us tech geeks feel sorry for the dying underdog that once was, so let's just blame the doctor.

Hmm... Let's say I'm a construction worker. I ask my doctor, is it safe for me to work in this construction site? Afterall, I MIGHT get hurt. He says, in all likelyhood you'll be ok. So I go to work and I fall and break my neck because the construction site was left unsafe. Now, if I must sue, who should I sue? I guess by everyone here's logic, the doctor because he failed to warn me about what MIGHT happen if the site was left unsafe.

Look, if there are toxic chemicals poisoning people at AMD's (and other manuf.) plants, THAT'S REALLY BAD and should be remedied, even if law suits have to be the driving force! If the job description said you will definitely get cancer if you work here, NOBODY would work there. We don't need more technology martyrs. Safety standards need to be so strong that THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN.

IT IS NOT THE DOCTOR'S FAULT. She was exposed to dangerous chemicals at AMD, not the doctor's office. If her job went as expected, she would NOT have been poisoned by the chemicals she works with. It's utterly rediculous to expect doctors to be prognosticators. I'm sure the doctor assumed AMD's environment was more controlled with regards to safety than it actually was. But should every doctor simply take the most paranoid response and just tell everyone to stay in bed because EVERYTHING IS DANGEROUS AND CARRIES RISK?

With all that said, ultimately, it was her OWN CHOICE to work at that lab with toxic chemicals, to work while pregnant, and to have a baby. She made all the decisions. While AMD or its employees might have acidentally exposed her to the chemicals by some kind of error, it's really her fault and God's.

RE: Who's fault?
By masher2 on 11/9/2007 1:24:31 PM , Rating: 2
> "She was exposed to dangerous chemicals at AMD"

Why the rush to judgement? The extreme willingness to comdemn? Frankly, this smells like another ambulance-chasing lawsuit to me, attempting to connect an unrelated birth defect to someone with deep pockets. I seriously doubt AMD is exposing workers to dangerous levels of toxins.

RE: Who's fault?
By Parhel on 11/9/07, Rating: -1
RE: Who's fault?
By masher2 on 11/9/2007 2:15:45 PM , Rating: 5
> "That's an very callous comment considering that we're talking about a woman's baby being born with major birth defects."

This is the attitude that allows ambulance-chasing attorney's to exploit our justice system. They know if they show a picture of a deformed baby to a jury of 12 people like yourself, you'll have an emotional response, not a rational one. Your reaction will be to seek retribution...and the natural target will be the large, evil, rich corporation that employed her. Regardless of whether or not that corporation is actually guilty of anything.

> "No woman I've ever met would trade any amount of money for her childrens' health."

You haven't met any of the women arrested for selling their children for money then. But that's beside the point. No one is suggesting she intentionally harmed her child. We're suggesting she's attempting to profit from that harm after the fact. (16 years after the fact, actually).

RE: Who's fault?
By Oregonian2 on 11/9/2007 2:16:41 PM , Rating: 3
Yes, I can see why she would very much like to have somebody else made to take the blame, and I can see why she'd want a lot of money to take care of her child.

However, remember that town where the entire town was bought out after a lawsuit because of a serious medical problem that they thought caused by some pollution of some sort? Really super-megabucks. Now the situation with the people there was sincerely very bad and sad. However, the percentage of folk with the problem there was the same percentage that occurs in the entire country. They won because of compassion for those affected -- and those found guilty were only that because they were nearby and handy <lawyer comment deleted>.

If it were true that these kind of defects ONLY happen by women working in semiconductor cleanrooms, things would be clear. But if they also happen to people who don't then it may just be bad luck for AMD that she happened to be working there rather than at KFC where the secret special 11 spices could be blamed.

I'm overstating my point somewhat, but if AMD did in fact do something nasty, by all means string'm up and leave'm out to dry. But it also may be that they just happened to be the employer of someone who had a terrible thing happen to her.

RE: Who's fault?
By augiem on 11/9/2007 9:14:14 PM , Rating: 2
Well, that's true. I shouldn't have said she WAS exposed at AMD, but she COULD have been. But regardless, my point was - it is NOT the doctor's fault.

I don't know what goes on in AMD's chip plant and I don't know what happened. All I know is it's silly to say it's the doctor's fault.

RE: Who's fault?
By opterondo on 11/9/2007 11:36:25 PM , Rating: 2
I doubt she was exposed on AMDs part .. full body ventilated gear has been the norm in fabs for 30 years if she even got high from it she wasn't following procedure and it's her own fault. Not to mention she already knew she was exposed to fumes in the past; that was where she should have hung it up as this stuff isn't maple syrup.

RE: Who's fault?
By codeThug on 11/9/2007 9:59:59 PM , Rating: 2
I seriously doubt AMD is exposing workers to dangerous levels of toxins.

That is a fact.

During the alleged time of exposure, I knew most of the Environmental/Health&Safety people. I wrote their MSDS image retrieval and environmental reporting system. The EHS folks at AMD take this stuff very seriously.

And why did she wait 16 years to complain about this?

<echoes of John Edwards here>

RE: Who's fault?
By zombiexl on 11/9/2007 1:30:11 PM , Rating: 2
You completely missed the fact that she was nervous about it.

If she had a reason to believe she was putting her pregnancy at risk and still did it then she has to take (at least) a large part of the blame.

The facts are not clear.
If it is a problem at AMD, have they had any other workers who's children were born with similar birth defects?
Why would a doctor OK her to go back to work if she truely explained her fears?
Are we sure she is clean in all this? Maybe she likes to inhale chemicals to get high..

The fact is we dont know the answer to any of these. We cant judge anyone on this without proper evidence or answers.

RE: Who's fault?
By Murst on 11/9/2007 2:27:28 PM , Rating: 2
You completely missed the fact that she was nervous about it.

I assume you've never had children.

I have yet to see a woman not nervous about nearly everything while they're pregnant.
Why would a doctor OK her to go back to work if she truely explained her fears?

Because doctors go through this with every pregnancy. There just wasn't anything there that would give him reason to be alarmed. If doctors weren't there to reassure pregnant women that the world is safe, pregnant women would probably lock themselves in a room for 9 months because of fear of what may happen.

RE: Who's fault?
By Alexstarfire on 11/9/2007 1:39:39 PM , Rating: 1
You're probably the same guy that buys stuff at Walmart aren't you? Sure, this is bad, don't get me wrong on that. The things is this, how many clean room employees have had babies during AMDs entire career. My guess is that it's quite a few, but I'll never know. Birth defects suck and no one would argue against that. The thing is this, how do we know that this birth defect was caused by exposure to... whatever... was in the clean room. There are a lot of household chemicals that can cause birth defects that people use EVERY DAY. I think that if employees are exposed to toxic chemicals that AT THE MINIMUM they should be notified of that fact. In reality they should very well do everything they can to prevent exposure to these chemicals to begin with.

You have to realize that while this ONE case, perhaps a couple more, are very bad in their own right, this is not the worst thing I've heard or seen. Have you guys watched the documentary that they have for Walmart. I'm not sure if I'd really call it a documentary, but they show the conditions of Walmart employees in different countries and all the bad stuff that they do in the US. It's a hell of a lot worse for those people than it is for this ONE woman. Walmart violates safety laws nearly EVERYWHERE, including storage of some toxic chemicals. They've left fertilizer and such out in the open for it to run off into storm drains and get into the local water supply. That affects a hell of a lot more people than AMD ever could and that's not the only thing Walmart has done wrong. I have to say that if you haven't seen the documentary that you should go see it. After watching it I can't even walk into a Walmart anymore, let alone buy anything they sell.

I think that AMD should be sued, but probably not the doctor. I mean, unless the lady and the doctor knew EXACTLY what she was exposed to then there isn't really a case against the doctor. He seems like he was just unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

RE: Who's fault?
By masher2 on 11/9/2007 2:49:52 PM , Rating: 5
> "There are a lot of household chemicals that can cause birth defects that people use EVERY DAY"

Ordinary laundry bleach, chlorinated drinking water, common aspirin, alchohol, tobacco, cocaine, codeine, many common antibiotics, most household insecticides, carbon monoxide (from auto exhaust or poorly ventilated home heating systems/water heaters), and about a million other compounds are all known to cause birth defects.

I'm betting this woman was exposed to several from the above list alone.

RE: Who's fault?
By clovell on 11/12/2007 3:09:34 PM , Rating: 1
No, it's the doctor's fault, too (if there is fault here...) The doctor is a specialist - s/he spent 10+ years studying obstretrics, and should know what chemicals pose risks, or at the very least, be able to check those chemicals the woman worked with.

The first thing a woman is usually given after confirming a pregnancy with a doctor is a list of stuff that can harm the baby. The doctor's advice, her supervisor lack of protest, and her own evaluation of their respective truth kept her working in this environment - if the environment caused the birth defect, all parties bear responsibility.

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