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Articles Posted in Companies & Asbestos

A New Orleans, Louisiana jury recently awarded an $8.2 million mesothelioma verdict to a former mechanic against Ford. Ford Motor Company is a multinational company that designs, manufactures, markets, and services cars, trucks, utility vehicles, and luxury vehicles. After only 60 minutes of deliberation, the Louisiana jury ordered the manufacturing giant to pay the victim $8,261,874 as compensation for the malignant mesothelioma he blamed on the repeated asbestos exposure he suffered while servicing vehicles manufactured by Ford. The jury’s quick decision came after three weeks of testimony about how the former mechanic was repeatedly exposed to asbestos while servicing clutches and brakes installed on Ford vehicles and buses.

Over a year ago, the Louisiana resident was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and fatal cancer. Immediately the former mechanic learned that he had mesothelioma, he filed a negligence and strict liability lawsuit against Ford Motor Company. The former mechanic worked as a gas station mechanic and as a school bus mechanic. It was while working these jobs in the 1960s and 70s that he suffered repeated asbestos exposure. While servicing asbestos-containing clutches and brakes on vehicles manufactured by Ford, the former mechanic was exposed to asbestos dust. When asbestos fibers get stuck in the lining of the lungs after being inhaled, they cause inflammation and scarring to DNA and mesothelial cells. Mesothelioma then develops due to the inflammation, typically decades after initial asbestos exposure.

Ford Motor Company’s failure to warn of the presence of asbestos or related dangers was at the heart of this mesothelioma litigation. The plaintiff’s attorneys and the jury determined that Ford knew about the dangers of asbestos long before the former mechanic’s exposure. They also determined that the manufacturing giant failed to warn the former mechanic about the dangers of asbestos. Due to that, the jury awarded the plaintiff $8.2. million in compensatory damages.

According to a July 8, 2021 opinion, Washington Supreme Court reinstated an $81.5 million ruling in full after overturning an appellate court ruling for a wrongful death claim of an auto mechanic. According to the Supreme Court ruling, the Court of Appeals “overstepped the limited role played by appellate courts in the civil justice system and substituted its own subjective judgment for that of the jury and trial courts based on nothing more than the size of the verdict.”

The original claim was brought forward by the family and estate of the deceased mechanic who died in 2015 at the age of 67 of peritoneal mesothelioma. In 2017, after an approximately 12-week trial, a jury unanimously found NAPA Auto Parts and Genuine Parts Corp (GPC) liable in the mechanic’s death and awarded the deceased mechanic’s survivors $81.5 million. In its verdict, the jury found that NAPA and GPC were strictly liable and negligent for their defective asbestos-containing products used by the mechanic. Before his diagnosis and death, the deceased had worked with brake pads containing asbestos, and other parts manufactured by GPC and sold through NAPA for decades.

After the jury awarded the $81.5 million to the deceased’s mechanic’s survivors, GPC and NAPA moved for a new trial or alternatively to have the damages awarded lowered, which the trial court denied. The Court of Appeals then vacated the jury’s $81.5 million verdict and reversed the trial court in part. The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court made a mistake when it excluded one of NAPA and GPC’s expert witnesses and applied what was referred to as “subjective determination.” The Court of Appeals also concluded that the jury’s award was excessive and ordered a new trial on damages.

The number one leading cause of mesothelioma is occupational primary asbestos exposure. However, even those who do not directly interact with asbestos at the workplace can fall victim to asbestos exposure. Second hand asbestos exposure usually happens when a worker brings home asbestos fibers. Since there is no safe level of any form of asbestos exposure, bringing home asbestos fibers on one’s clothes, hair, or even skin inevitably puts everyone in that home at risk of asbestos-related health issues such as mesothelioma.

Primary asbestos exposure was common in the 20th century. During that time, men were at a greater risk of falling victim to primary asbestos exposure because they were employed in labor jobs such as construction jobs that used asbestos products. Second hand asbestos exposure, on the other hand, was more prevalent among women and children. It was common for men who worked with asbestos to unknowingly bring asbestos to their homes on their tools, skin, hair, shoes, and even clothes. Unfortunately, even today, people are still at risk of second hand asbestos exposure because asbestos is still in many American buildings and products. Today, a construction worker can, for instance, bring asbestos fibers home after renovating or demolishing an asbestos-contaminated house.

Second hand asbestos exposure is a type of non-occupational asbestos exposure. Second hand asbestos exposure is also called secondary, para-occupational, or take-home exposure. Repeated second hand asbestos exposure can be just as risky as primary asbestos exposure. Therefore, it is incorrect for anyone to assume that people who have not worked with asbestos cannot get mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Being repeatedly exposed to asbestos fibers by a worker who brings home asbestos fibers can cause asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.

In a recently decided Ohio mesothelioma lawsuit, a jury awarded the estate of an 83-year-old Korean War Veteran $12.1 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The jury awarded the veteran’s estate this amount after hearing and deliberating on the details of the veteran’s decades-long asbestos exposure and his ensuing diagnosis and death from malignant mesothelioma. At first, the jury had awarded the plaintiff compensatory damages amounting to $6.1 million. The judge then decided to add another $6 million in punitive damages against John Crane, Inc.

The war veteran worked in the stockroom at the Pfaudler Co. plant in Elyria, Ohio, for more than four decades. He started working at the Pfaudler Co. plant after his service in Korea. While working at Pfaudler, the veteran was responsible for preparing shipments of specialized glass-coated steel bowls used in chemical and pharmaceuticals manufacturing. Every week, he would spend hours cutting asbestos-contaminated rope using a band saw. Because the material was asbestos-contaminated, cutting it with a band saw led to the spread of asbestos particles into the air, which he then inhaled.

According to reports, the veteran was a hard-working man who always did what he was told to do at work. Unfortunately, neither he nor his fellow employees were ever informed of the hazards of the product they were handling because Pfaudler was in the dark. Pfaudler was never warned about the asbestos-contaminated rope, and the evidence presented at trial proved this fact. Crane Packing Co., now formally known as John Crane Inc., the material’s manufacturer, knew that the material had a high concentration of blue crocidolite asbestos, but never warned Pfaudler of the material’s potential danger or advised the plant on proper handling. The material’s manufacturer always advertised the material as ‘completely non-toxic.’ However, once Pfaudler realized that the material was toxic – an entire three years before John Crane issued any form of public warning – the company stopped using it. Unfortunately, by then, it was late for the war veteran, as he had already been exposed to asbestos for many years.

Massachusetts’ attorney general recently filed a lawsuit against four companies that the state’s chief prosecutor claims improperly removed, transported, and stored asbestos during an abatement project at city YMCA building, which hosts daycare programs and housing. The lawsuit is another in a string of priority enforcement efforts brought by the state’s attorney general to bring asbestos enforcement to bear and is an important part of the office’s effort to protect vulnerable communities in the state and hold wrongdoers accountable.

“We allege that the defendants’ reckless disregard of basic workplace procedures and failure to take proper precautions put the health and safety of workers, building occupants, and the surrounding community at risk,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “Those who deal with asbestos have a duty to do so in a safe and legal way to protect workers and the public from the serious harms of asbestos exposure, and we will take action against those who don’t comply.”

According to the lawsuit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Ray Services Inc., an asbestos abatement company, O’Reilly, Talbot, & Okun Associates, Inc., an environmental consulting company, Allegrone Construction Co., a general contractor, and Service Transport Group, a transportation company, each violated the Massachusetts’ Clean Air Act and corresponding regulations. Defendant Ray Services Inc. allegedly removed dry, spray-on fire-proofing material containing asbestos by scraping the material off ceiling ducts, pipes, and beams in unoccupied classrooms in the building.

One of the country’s largest railroad companies recently made headlines when it filed a lawsuit against a Montana health clinic that provides aid to asbestos and mesothelioma cancer victims harmed by a now shuttered vermiculite mine, and the railway company itself for the two entities’ roles in spreading carcinogenic asbestos fibers across the area. The company, BNSF Railway, is suing the Center for Asbestos Related Disease, located in Libby, Montana, claiming that the clinic is defrauding the federal government by conducting what the railway calls unnecessary tests and is relying on supposedly inaccurate radiological studies to diagnose asbestos victims in the town and surrounding area.

Though only made public recently, the suit was originally filed back in 2019. The claim asked the federal government to investigate and prosecute the Center for Asbestos Related Disease for fraud against the taxpayer. Fortunately, the federal government declined to intervene on behalf of BNSF Railway, leaving the company to carry the claim on itself under the federal whistleblower statute that allows private entities to bring claims on behalf of the government and receive a portion of any recovery for itself.

The Center for Asbestos Related Disease is one of the few healthcare providers in the country that commits itself to study the health effects of the particular form of asbestos found in the vermiculite mines of Libby. To that end, the Center for Asbestos Related Disease is the leading provider of asbestos-related diagnoses and healthcare to the residents of the small town which found itself at the epicenter of one of the worst environmental cleanups in the United States.

A New York state court recently issued an important ruling in an asbestos cancer lawsuit preventing one of the defendants from attempting to have itself removed from the case and potentially escape liability for its role in the victim’s cancer diagnosis. With the court’s ruling, defendant retailer Lot Less will remain as a defendant to the case while the plaintiff proceeds with the information gathering phase of the litigation in order to establish exactly what the business knew about the safety of the products it sold to consumers like the victim in this case.

According to the mesothelioma cancer lawsuit, filed in the Supreme Court of New York County in 2018, the now deceased plaintiff developed malignant mesothelioma cancer from years of using Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder, which was contaminated with deadly asbestos fibers. The plaintiff contends that not only Johnson & Johnson should be held liable for manufacturing the carcinogenic talc-based product, but also retailer Lot Less for selling the product to consumers like the victim. Other defendants named in the case included Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Cyprus Amax Minerals Company, and Whittaker Clark & Daniels.

In its motion for summary judgment, Lot Less argued that the family of the victim, who brought the suit on her behalf, had not yet proven that the Johnson & Johnson product in question actually contained asbestos. Further, the company argued that sellers of defective products generally have an implied right to indemnification, that is that they cannot be held liable for legally selling a product that a manufacturer produced. Fortunately for the plaintiff, the judge hearing the case determined that it would be premature to remove Lot Less from the case since the underlying liability had not yet been established.

A long running lawsuit brought by the state of Mississippi against pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson may proceed, after the state supreme court refused to side with the company in its bid to toss the claim involving allegations that it violated state laws concerning labeling of its talc-based products. Specifically, the lawsuit brought by Mississippi’s attorney general claimed that Johnson & Johnson failed to disclose possible health risks associated with using the company’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talcum powder products which the company faces an avalanche of litigation in federal and state courts across the country.

According to the lawsuit, filed in Hinds County Chancery Court in 2014, Johnson & Johnson violated Mississippi’s Consumer Protection Act when the company failed to include labels on its talcum powder products displaying a warning of the possible links between using talc-based products and developing ovarian cancer. The state’s attorney general’s lawsuit sought an injunction to force Johnson & Johnson to include warnings on talcum powder product labels and enforce violations with fines up to $10,000.

After the state filed its preliminary lawsuit in county court, Johnson & Johnson asked the court to toss out the lawsuit. After the chancery court refused to do so in December 2018, the company appealed to a state appellate court to do the same, but was met with a similar denial. Johnson & Johnson subsequently went to the state’s highest court for yet another dismissal, arguing that labeling requirements on its cosmetics products are preempted by federal laws and the state therefore had no authority to require the company include the types of warning labels the matter pertained to.

A California appeals court recently upheld a substantial multimillion dollar jury verdict awarded to a husband and wife who claimed that the defendant caused the husband’s rare and deadly form of cancer from exposure to asbestos containing products manufactured by the company. In their verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, the California state jury awarded the husband over $14 million for his economic damages, as well as his pain and suffering, and an additional $1 million to his wife for her loss of consortium. The defendant, J-M Manufacturing, appealed the jury’s verdict in the hopes of having the verdict and the awards tossed.

According to the asbestos cancer lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court in 2018, the husband plaintiff was employed as a construction worker and supervision during the 1970s and 1980s. During that time, according to the lawsuit, he was frequently exposed to asbestos fibers in cement pipes manufactured and sold by J-M Manufacturing. As a result of this exposure to asbestos containing products over nearly two decades, the plaintiff developed a rare and deadly form of lung cancer called mesothelioma.

After a trial spanning October and November 2018, the Los Angeles County jury awarded the plaintiff and his wife over $15 million in compensatory damages for their past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. Additionally, the jury saw fit to award the plaintiffs an additional $15 million in punitive damages, which are a special type of award handed down in circumstances where it can be established that a defendant acted with an much more egregious level of negligence.

A federal judge in Maine recently denied a defendant’s request to have a mesothelioma cancer lawsuit tossed out on the grounds that the company could not have known about dangerous working conditions alleged by the victim, ruling that the question of foreseeability of injuries should be left for a jury to decide at trial. The defendant, Maine Central Railroad, claimed that it could not have known the victim worked in an environment contaminated with asbestos and therefore could not be held responsible for the victim’s asbestos cancer diagnosis.

According to the plaintiff’s mesothelioma cancer lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, the victim operated the Carlton Bridge which connects a railroad line over the Kennebec River between Bath and Woolwich, Maine, which was owned by the defendant. The plaintiff alleged that the walls of the control room, engine room, and operating room of the bridge would shake when trains passed over it and would create dust in his work station.

The plaintiff’s mesothelioma cancer lawsuit asserted that asbestos containing products were used throughout the construction of the bridge and the areas which the victims worked during his tenure with the company, which was the source of his exposure to asbestos fibers. The victim further pointed to an asbestos inspection and abatement program that Maine Central Railroad initiated in 1984 during the twilight years of the plaintiff’s employment company to show that asbestos was eventually detected in his work areas.

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