We were co-counsel to a 74-year-old former millwright and maintenance man who had worked for decades with asbestos-contaminated products in chemical and plastics plants, and subsequently developed a rare and potentially fatal form of cancer.
As part of his job, our client dismantled industrial pumps and valves, which required him to handle corroded gaskets and packing materials made of asbestos. His exposure to asbestos particles over a period from the 1960’s through 2000 led to him being diagnosed with testicular mesothelioma.
The former millwright and his wife initially sued 13 companies that manufacture asbestos pumps and valves, but eight of those cases were eventually dismissed because the products could not be linked to the plants where the man worked. Our client entered into confidential settlements with two of the five remaining companies, and took the other three remaining firms — Byron Jackson, Crane Co. and Durco — to trial in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas.
In court, we argued that the defendants had long known that their valves and pumps contained hazardous asbestos materials, yet they took no steps to make their products safer. Also, none of the companies issued warnings to our client or other workers about the dangers of the asbestos in their products. As a result, our client did not know he needed to protect himself while working with these valves and pumps.
The jury in the case awarded our client a total of $37 million in actual and punitive damages. They also gave his wife $1 million for her loss of consortium claim, based on the removal of one of her husband’s testicles in an attempt to keep the cancer from spreading.
Crane Co. and Durco were each assessed $11 million in punitive damages, and Byron Jackson was assessed a $5 million punitive damage charge. The total $38 million award was being challenged as of September 2013. If the verdict is upheld, it will give our client about $1 million for each year that he spent as a maintenance man and millwright in the plants in which he worked with the unsafe materials.