Scapa Dryer Fabrics v. Knight – Half of $10.5M Asbestos Judgment in Limbo

Thumbnail image for asbestos1.jpgA man who sued a fabric manufacturer, among other defendants, for asbestos exposure after he developed mesothelioma was awarded a total of $10.5 million by the trial court.

But one of those defendants (responsible for $4 million of that $10.5 million verdict) appealed, and in Scapa Dryer Fabrics Inc. v. Knight, a Georgia appellate court affirmed. Now, both wait to see whether the Georgia Supreme Court will accept review of the defendant’s appeal.

The defendant alleges the trial judge made a host of errors during the proceedings, and therefore the proceedings weren’t fair. The defendant also alleges insufficiency of evidence and that the plaintiff’s expert witness testimony was founded on “junk science.” They alleged the jury was uneducated, confused, and improperly charged by the court. Furthermore, the defendant attorney described the judge as inexperienced in complex litigation.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys denied that characterization, describing the judge as patient and never losing his temper during the meticulous pre-trial proceedings or during the actual trial, which took a full month.

The appeals court was divided on the issue but did affirm the trial court and sided with the court on 11 of 13 errors alleged by the defendant. The other two mistakes, the appeals court ruled, were harmless. Furthermore, there was sufficient evidence to support the verdict.

While there is always the possibility of a reversal, higher courts tend to allow lower courts a broad degree of discretion in weighing facts as presented at trial. If the state high court does accept review, it will be looking at whether the judge made any errors of law, and if so, whether those errors were highly prejudicial to the defendant.

In this mesothelioma litigation, the plaintiff is now 75 years old and grows increasingly weakened by the disease and chemotherapy. His lawyer has told the court he is unsure whether he will live long enough to endure a second trial, if it is so ordered. He noted delaying the case substantially is a dirty defense tactic, since the award amount to families of mesothelioma victims after death is often lower than what would have been awarded directly to the victim, were they still alive.

The defendant refers to “junk science” in the appeal and specifically the “any exposure” theory. That is, no amount of asbestos is safe, and therefore any amount of exposure is potentially dangerous. Most courts reject this notion and require more than a showing of “de minimis” exposure.

But the appellate court noted that wasn’t the case here, and the plaintiff outlined extensively the exposure he suffered while working at the fabric manufacturing firm. In fact, among the three defendants named, this one was found 40 percent liable – more than the other two.

Our experienced asbestos injury lawyers know it is not uncommon for defendants to drag these cases out for as long as possible. They have the advantage of both resources and time – something often in short supply for victims.

We understand the complex nature of these cases, and we are dedicated to ensuring our clients are not pressured or denied the fair compensation they deserve.

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.

Additional Resources:
Nearly Half of $10M Asbestos Verdict Hangs on High Court Action, June 24, 2015, by Katheryn Hayes Tucker, Daily Report

More Blog Entries:
Kaenzig v. Charles B. Chrystal Co. – Talc Asbestos Verdict for Plaintiff Affirmed, April 1, 2015, Florida Asbestos Injury Lawyer Blog

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