ATTLEBORO — About two-dozen former Metals & Controls and Texas Instruments workers and the estates of deceased employees are suing Texas Instruments, alleging it failed to protect them from radioactive materials and hazardous chemicals at its Attleboro plant.
The plaintiffs allege in documents filed Nov. 21 in U.S. District Court in Boston that the employees contracted cancer and other serious ailments as a result of their exposure to materials at work.
They are seeking compensation totaling tens of millions of dollars.
Neither Fiore Porreca, the attorney representing the employees and their estates, nor a Texas Instruments spokesman could immediately be reached Wednesday for comment.
Texas Instruments purchased Metals & Controls in 1959.
According to court filings, from 1952 to 1965, the company’s Forest Street plant fabricated enriched uranium fuel elements for the Navy Reactors Program, the Air Force and for other government research.
Until 1981, the plant continued to fabricate fuel for the High Flux Isotope Reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and other government research reactors.
According to Nuclear Regulatory Commission documents, the site was cleaned up in the 1990s.
Court documents also said the Attleboro plant performed work involving enriched Uranium 234, U-235 and U-238, thorium and radium.
During the 1950s, company officials billed the plant as the nation’s largest privately owned fabricator of nuclear fuel.
The lawsuits say the company kept the existence of atomic materials secret and did not take sufficient care to protect employees from radiation.
Most of the suits against the company were filed on behalf of deceased former employees.
One complaint, filed by the estate of the late Charles W. Balser, who worked for Metals & Controls and TI from 1949 to 1990, said that Balser contracted a number of ailments, including bladder and prostate cancer, as a result of his employment. Balser died in 1993.
The lawsuit in Balser’s name is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages.
The company reportedly has argued in court filings that the workers’ claims are employer-worker disputes that come under the Massachusetts Workers Compensation Act, and should not be heard in federal court.
Hundreds of former workers or their families have received compensation and payment for medical expenses under a program authorized by Congress in 2001 to help injured or ill atomic weapons industry workers.
So far, about $75 million has been dispensed to qualifying workers and families, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
A number of former workers have complained that they have had difficulty collecting benefits, partly because of the lengthy process of verifying their employment through the Social Security Administration.
The Labor Department has held multiple forums locally for former employees, and U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, D-Brookline, who represents the Attleboro area, has asked Social Security officials to help expedite records requests.