Born With a Heart Defect, Boeing Worker’s Child Seeks Justice

Marie Riley suffers from a lifelong heart condition that has meant the 42-year-old mother of two has had to endure several operations during her lifetime. Born with a set of four heart defects, Riley underwent her first open-heart surgery when she was only three years old. A second open-heart surgery was performed when she was in her early 30s.

Riley was one of three plaintiffs in a set of lawsuits against Boeing that allege the company failed to protect workers. When Riley’s mother was pregnant, she manufactured circuit boards at Boeing’s Electronics Manufacturing Facility, a job that involved tasks such as dipping soldering boards in industrial solvents to clean them. The facility, located in the Seattle area, has since been shuttered.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuits alleged their birth defects are a result of their parents’ exposure to toxic chemicals and heavy metals when they worked at Boeing factories in Puget Sound. In late October 2022, the Boeing Co. and Riley reached terms of an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed amount. Two other lawsuits, filed by children of mechanics at Boeing’s Everett plant, are still pending.

About Marie Riley’s Birth Defect Lawsuit 

Riley first started experiencing heartbeat abnormalities as a teenager, a time in her life that was marked by fainting spells. The issue was that the electrical impulses from Riley’s brain were getting stuck pulsating on the scar tissue from her heart surgery, leading to the abnormalities. Riley underwent a series of unsuccessful surgical procedures when she was a teen, as doctors attempted to cauterize parts of her heart in a bid to reroute the signals. In her early 20s, Riley had a small defibrillator implanted in her chest. When triggered, it would deliver a shock to restore her heart’s regular rhythm.

Riley first made a link between her condition and her mother’s job at Boeing when her mother heard a radio ad seeking workers in the aerospace and electronic industries who had children born with birth defects.

Did Boeing Ignore Warnings About Potential Birth Defects Risks?

According to one report, internal documents reveal that – as far back as March 1980 – Boeing executives were alerted to workers’ potential risk of chemical exposure. Boeing’s occupational health manager at the time had warned that about 30,000 employees were potentially exposed, and about 1,500 of those employees would be seriously damaged by this exposure.

In 1980, Boeing’s occupational health manager warned of “future outbreaks of serious illness,” including fetal abnormalities. He further recommended a series of measures to help protect employees, including chemical labeling and medical monitoring. However, at the time his advice fell on deaf ears.

The United States started looking at workplace health and safety in the 1970s following the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. However, it took Boeing more than a decade to create strong workplace safety programs.

How We Help Boeing Birth Defect Victims

Seek justice with the help of our experienced birth defects attorneys. Our alliance of birth defect victims’ attorneys has represented people like you, who have been affected by birth defects caused by toxic exposure at Boeing. We aggressively fight the corporate giants who failed to protect vulnerable workers. If you or a loved one was exposed to chemicals while pregnant and now have a child who suffers from a life-altering birth defect like spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, or cerebral palsy, we can help.