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Federal Judge Dismisses Glue Sniffing Lawsuit Against H.B. Fuller

September 25, 1996

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ A federal judge has dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit against H.B. Fuller Co., accused of contributing to the death of a Guatemalan teen-ager who sniffed Fuller products to get high.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Davis dismissed the case Monday, ruling on a motion filed by Fuller that the federal court did not have jurisdiction over the matter.

The suit charged that 16-year-old Joel Linares suffered severe physical and neurological injuries that eventually proved fatal as a result of inhaling Resistol, a Fuller glue popular among Central American street children.

Linares died in 1993. His family filed the suit in January in St. Paul, alleging his death was a result of negligence by Fuller because it knew that its glue, then containing the chemical toluene, was lethal. It also said Fuller did not issue adequate warnings that sniffing the glue would cause injury and death.

Davis’ ruling did not address the family’s claims, only the question of jurisdiction.

``Obviously we agree with the judge’s decision and look forward to putting the matter behind us,″ said Fuller’s spokesman, Bill Belknap. ``If it was a matter for the court at all, it would be a Guatemalan court.″

But Scott Hendler, an Austin, Texas-based attorney representing Linares’ family, said the suit still could be filed in state court.

Hendler said Davis’ ruling only addressed whether federal courts had jurisdiction, and he could file the suit again in any of the states in which Fuller does business.

``Not withstanding Fuller’s resistance to it, I’m confident that the struggle to place this product beyond the reach of children will continue,″ he said.

The issue long has plagued Fuller, which has been accused by activists for several years of not doing enough to keep its products away from Central American street children.

In court proceedings, the company had said that the plaintiff’s claims that package warnings would have stopped the abuse were illogical because the solvent products being sniffed are seldom in their original containers.

Fuller’s solvent-based glues are widely used in Central American by customers such as shoemakers. Fuller has blamed the abuse on black-marketeers who resell the glue to street children.

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