For purposes of this article, the victim in this case will be referred to as M.F.B.
In a mesothelioma case, you can recover compensatory damages just like in any other personal injury case. These are damages meant to compensate the plaintiff for the harm suffered. Claimants in mesothelioma claims may also be eligible to recover punitive damages. However, punitive damages are not awarded in all mesothelioma cases. This is because these damages are meant to punish defendants and not compensate victims or their families. Punitive damages are only awarded when the court determines that the defendant acted particularly egregiously or with the intent to cause harm. Any person found guilty of this kind of conduct pays the plaintiff’s compensatory damages and an additional amount meant to punish them and warn others from acting the same in the future.
Because of the financial burden punitive damages place on defendants, some try to dismiss a claim for such damages. In a recent mesothelioma case, the defendant, a boiler manufacturer, tried dismissing a claim for punitive damages. However, the judge sitting in the case denied the defendant’s petition and allowed the case to continue in its entirety. Burnham LLC, one of the defendants being blamed for the malignant mesothelioma that killed M.F.B. in 2021, could be required to pay the deceased’s punitive damages at the end of the case after the court ruled that the company was unable to prove that punitive damages were not warranted.
M.F.B. worked for Madison Fuel Oil Company for a long time as an oil burner serviceman. M.F.B. was exposed to many asbestos-contaminated parts during his time at the company. After he died in 2021 of malignant mesothelioma, his family filed a claim against Burnham LLC, blaming the company and other companies for the illness that killed their loved one. The family asserted that Burnham’s failure to warn of the dangers of asbestos in its products rises to the level that warrants an award of punitive damages. In response, the defendant argued that the punitive damages claim was unjustified because the asbestos exposure M.F.B. suffered was under the amount specified by OSHA. The defendant even brought in an expert witness to help with their argument.
After listening to both arguments, the Supreme Court of New York noted that the expert witness testimony was insufficient to support the defendant’s petition, partly because the expert witness was unaware of the amount of asbestos exposure a person could experience from a Burnham boiler. The expert witness had never conducted any research on a Burnham boiler. Additionally, Burnham’s corporate representative testified that the company had never placed warnings on its burners regarding the dangers of asbestos until 1982. Ultimately, the Supreme Court of New York decided the punitive damages claim would remain part of M.F.B.’s family’s mesothelioma claim.
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If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our office to speak to one of our experienced nationwide mesothelioma attorneys about your situation. Our office can help investigate your case and determine if compensation can be sought from negligent parties to help you live a more comfortable life.