Two longtime Philadelphia Flyers athletic trainers, who have worked side-by-side at the team’s training facility in Voorhees, N.J. for the past 18 years, are suing team ownership, among others, after receiving similar medical diagnoses that they allege came from a work environment in which they were unknowingly exposed to cancer-causing carcinogens, Crossing Broad has learned.
Jim McCrossin, 64, Flyers Director of Medical Services, who joined the team in 2000, and assistant athletic trainer Sal Raffa, 42, who joined the team in 2004, were both diagnosed with nearly identical and incurable blood diseases and/or cancer a few months apart in the Spring and Summer of 2021.
McCrossin developed the rare medical conditions essential thrombocythemia, myeloproliferative neoplasm, and the blood cancer myelofibrosis, which is terminal.
Raffa developed thrombocythemia, which is incurable and is proliferative for other blood diseases such as cancer, or inducing strokes.
After exhaustive research, the pair allege the contraction of these diseases was the result of excessive exposure to cancer-causing carcinogens that are emitted from Zambonis, used to cut and clean the ice surface at the Flyers practice facility, and the result of the training room, where they have worked for the past two decades, butting up against the Zamboni room where these carcinogenic chemicals were potentially ingested extensively due to inappropriate ventilation or through a shared drainage system.
The law firm of Kline & Specter filed last week a 27-page complaint on behalf of McCrossin, Raffa and in consortium, their wives, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia.
The complaint named several defendants, including those entities that own the Flyers: Comcast Holdings Corporation; Comcast Spectacor Holdings Company, LLC; Comcast Spectacor, LLC; Comcast Spectacor Ventures, LLC; Flyers Skate Zone LP; FPS, LLC; FPS, LP; FPS Rink, LLC; FPS Rink, LP; FPS Urban Renewal, Inc., and unknown companies who were partners, in proprietorship, controlled the property, or had any affiliation with the property as far as involvement with the emission, handling, and management of the carcinogenic equipment.
“Jimmy McCrossin and Sal Raffa are beloved figures in Philadelphia sports and it is our honor to represent them,” said Tom Kline, Jim Waldenberger, and Elia Robertson of Kline & Specter in a statement provided to Crossing Broad. “Their cancer diagnoses are tragic and their exposure to toxic compounds in the workplace was unnecessary and preventable. We look forward to seeking justice for them in this very important case.”
The complaint accuses the defendants of negligence, strict liability, and a loss of consortium. These defendants each have 20 days, upon being served, to respond to the complaint, although often extensions are sought and granted as professional courtesy.
The Flyers organization provided us with this statement:
“The safety of our employees and guests at the Flyers Training Center and all of our facilities is always a top priority for us. We have looked into the allegations made by Jim McCrossin and Sal Raffa over the course of several months, and, based on that, believe that their claims have no merit. Beyond that, we cannot comment further given that this matter is in litigation.”
According to the complaint, obtained by Crossing Broad, it is alleged that “as a direct and proximate result of repeated and prolonged exposure to carcinogen emitting equipment and/or machinery, and to the vapors, aerosols, mists, and gases from said equipment and/or machinery, McCrossin developed rare medical conditions of essential thrombocythemia, myeloproliferative neoplasm, and most recently, myelofibrosis (blood cancer), which is incurable… (and)… Raffa developed rare medical condition of essential thrombocythemia, which is incurable.”
Shayne Gostisbehere is helped off the ice by Jim McCrossin in a 2018 home game (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
The complaint also alleged that the Zamboni machines in use at the Flyers Training Center “were and/or are fueled by gasoline and/or fuel containing and/or producing carcinogens during operation,” while other comparable ice resurfacing machines that are not gas-operated or require operational fuel that contains carcinogens, are available for sale.
In addition, the Zamboni machines at the Flyers Training Center allegedly were and/or are turned on while parked inside the Zamboni room, where they remain idling prior to entering the rink.
It’s also alleged that upon completion of ice resurfacing, “the Zamboni machines in use at the Flyers Training Center were and/or are returned to the Zamboni room where the machines again remain idling while the ‘dirty ice’ is drained.” The complaint claims that the Zamboni room did not have the appropriate ventilation system for carcinogen-emitting equipment or machinery, lacked the proper drainage system for the “dirty ice,” and that the Zamboni room is located immediately adjacent to both the ice rink and the training room, which is where McCrossin and Raffa worked primarily.
Additionally, the complaint alleges that the training room also lacked appropriate ventilation and drainage systems, or a constructed barrier to protect against exposure to carcinogens.
The complaint claimed that “the training room was subject to receiving liquid drainage from the Zamboni room, as well as other various conduits and spaces, through which emissions and/or carcinogens could access the areas occupied by … McCrossin and … Raffa.” And that they were unnecessarily exposed to carcinogens while occupying the training room and other areas in the vicinity of the operation of the Zamboni machine.