Leukemia lawsuit dismissed

A three-judge panel at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed a leukemia-related lawsuit filed against the city of Fallon by a local mother.

Frankie Sue Galaz filed the suit in June 2003 when her son, Eugenio, was 2 years old. The lawsuit named the United States of America, city of Fallon, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Kinder-Morgan Energy Partners as defendants, claiming the child was exposed to jet fuel from a leak in a pipeline that runs beneath the city to Naval Air Station Fallon.

The lawsuit alleged the child had an increased risk of developing a disease and as a result suffered from a fear of cancer, an argument the 9th Circuit rejected.

According to the court's decision, the child did not suffer from any documented physical injury or illness.

The leukemia lawsuit was first filed in Third Judicial District Court in Fallon and dismissed in April 2004.

It is not the only lawsuit stemming from Fallon's leukemia cluster, which remains a medical mystery. Seventeen cases of leukemia were diagnosed in and around Fallon since 1997, and three of those individuals died.

Don Lattin, the attorney handling the lawsuit for the city of Fallon, said the child was not exposed to anything that could be proven in court.

"Part of the reason it was dismissed was because they could never tell anyone what occurred and what it was because it never existed," he said.

He said the Galaz family and their attorney, Dr. Alan Levin, requested medical monitoring as part of the lawsuit and believe there is testing available to determine if a child will get cancer.

"This falls into the category of being frivolous. There's no accepted medical science that there is a test to determine one's likelihood of developing cancer," Lattin said.

He also said the Galaz's child was too young at the time to have a "fear of cancer" related to the leukemia cluster, which the lawsuit claimed, and "he's not able to formulate his own thoughts."

In an interview on Friday, Levin, who has been a pediatrician for more than 40 years, said researcher Jill James of the University of Arkansas did testing on children with leukemia and found that six out of six had the same genetic mutation.

Levin said he made an offer to settle the lawsuit for $25 if the city of Fallon would help establish an institute to study childhood cancer in Fallon.

He said the institute would allow 1,500 kids to be monitored for cancer with lab tests, complete blood count, urinalysis and genetic typing.

Levin also alleges an independent company from Reno came to Fallon to test the jet fuel pipeline for leaks. The city of Fallon conducted tests and found jet fuel on the wells and in the soil, he claims.

Lattin said nothing was found that could point to anything causing the childhood leukemia.

Federal agencies that investigated the cancer cluster, such as the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, also concluded they could not find a specific cause.

"The council and the mayor have been proactive in this. They've gotten the CDC involved and have helped with medical expenses for the families through the Mayor's Youth Fund," Lattin said.

In a prepared statement, Levin said he plans to file a motion to have the lawsuit re-heard in front of the entire panel of judges at the appeals court. If that fails he said he will take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Levin said he is currently involved with setting up a series of cancer-screening centers in China and is being funded by the Chinese government.

"This is exactly what I wanted to do in Fallon," he said.

• Contact reporter Christy Lattin at clattin@lahontanvalleynews.com


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