A jury recently awarded $7.25 million to the estate of a man who died of an asbestos-related disease known as mesothelioma. Although the decedent died just six months after receiving a diagnosis of the terminal cancer, his lawsuit alleged he was exposed to the toxic substance in the 1960s while he toiled in a U.S. Navy shipyard.
In Merwitz v. Allis-Chalmers Corporation Product Liability Trust, et al., a case before the Pennsylvania Eastern District Court in Philadelphia, jurors rejected arguments from the remaining defendants who sought to evade liability for the 62-year-old’s illness and death.
His exposure reportedly occurred while he worked at the shipyard in that state from 1965 through 1970. During that time, the plaintiff said he worked in a position where he was ordered to handle products like control boxes, gaskets, electric motors, turbines, packing, pumps, and electric wiring that all contained some amount of asbestos. The deadly fibers were also present in the insulation and pipe coverings the plaintiff was asked to handle daily.
Originally, there were nine defendants named in this mesothelioma lawsuit, each a manufacturer of a different asbestos-containing product to which the plaintiff was reportedly exposed. All but one of those settled the claims out-of-court for an undisclosed sum.
The remaining defendant, RSCC Wire & Cable (formerly known as Rockbestos Suprenant Cable Corp.), tried to settle its case for a measly $2,500. The plaintiff was smart to turn that deal down.
The case continued to trial, and jurors returned a $7.25 million verdict. Half of that was for wrongful death, and the other half was for damages incurred by survivors.
Of that portion, the remaining defendant is only responsible for a fraction – about $805,000. Jurors apportioned fault to the other defendants, although they will not be required to pay that amount, since their out-of-court settlements make them immune to further litigation on the issue.
Our experienced asbestos injury lawyers know that it’s often wise to try to negotiate for a settlement agreement with defendants prior to trial. Although sums paid in these agreements are often less than what one might win in a trial, they eliminate risk of trial and provide meaningful relief in a more timely fashion.
By the same token, plaintiffs need to be sure their attorney isn’t willing to accept a weak deal or back down from trial when they have a strong case.
Here, the defendant attempted to assert firstly that their product didn’t contain asbestos, and secondly, even if it did, the plaintiff didn’t use the products with enough regularity to result in his illness.
Jurors declined to adopt those assertions. Of course, there is no such thing as a safe amount of asbestos exposure, although courts generally reject the notion that tiny amounts of exposure can cause illness. Here, jurors found there was enough contact between the plaintiff and the defendant’s material that the resulting illness was plausible.
Help for mesothelioma victims can be found at The Ferraro Law Firm by calling 1-800-275-3332. Offices in Miami and Washington, D.C.
MERWITZ v. ALLIS-CHALMERS CORPORATION PRODUCT LIABILITY TRUST et al, filed April 27, 2012, Pennsylvania Eastern District Court
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