The NJ appeals court recently upheld a sanction against Ford in a mesothelioma case involving second-hand asbestos exposure. When Mrs. A.C (a name used for purposes of this article) was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, her family filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company, her husband’s former employer. According to the family, Mrs. A.C developed mesothelioma after inhaling asbestos fibers from her husband’s clothing during the 30 years that he worked as a service manager for the motor dealerships. During the trial, Ford Motor Company withheld evidence in violation of discovery rules, which led to the court imposing a significant sanction. Ford appealed the decision and the sanction, but the NJ state appeals court refused to set the sanctions aside.
For many years, Mrs. A.C’s family had tried to obtain the training manuals for Ford so that they could prove to the court that the company had not warned its workers about the dangers of asbestos in brake dust. Unfortunately, the family was not able to obtain those materials. Instead of producing the information, a corporate representative testified that he could not locate it. He said that none of the manuals were found.
In response, Mrs. A.C’s attorney confronted the representative with a copy of the manual. After the confrontation, the representative confessed that he had seen the manual before and even answered questions about it in previous asbestos cases. After learning that the representative had withheld evidence, the court imposed the sanction that went beyond the jury’s $800,000 verdict.