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Appeals court: Punitive damages not excessive

Asbestos court cases can be very complicated; in many cases, this is because there is a large amount of money at stake. Product manufacturers and employers accused of negligent or reckless behaviors will go to great lengths to defend their actions -- or inaction -- because they understand that victims of asbestos-related illnesses can be in a position to be awarded significant damages.

Defendants also know that people with mesothelioma, asbestosis and other serious conditions stemming from asbestos exposure are battling aggressive and painful illnesses, so they try to drag out the court process in the hopes that victims will eventually drop their claim. However, there are numerous examples of what happens when these tactics fail. 

For example, a man and his wife were recently awarded $30 million in compensatory damages and $18 million in punitive damages after the man was diagnosed with mesothelioma and filed a legal claim.

There were five parties ordered to pay a portion of the compensatory damages, but just one -- Union Carbide Company -- ordered to pay the punitive damages.

According to reports, Union Carbide has strongly opposed the ruling. They argue that there was not enough evidence to link the man's mesothelioma to their products specifically. They also stated that because the compensatory damages amount was ultimately lowered by a judge to $6 million, the punitive damages should also be lowered because it was disproportionate to the compensatory damages. 

However, an appeals court upheld the $18 million award, stating that Union Carbide's negligence in regards to warning people about the dangers of the asbestos in its products was reprehensible. It was also noted that the company put its profits ahead of public safety, putting the lives of many people, including the man who filed the suit, in danger. 

This case is just one of the many examples of one person successfully filing a claim against multiple large corporations for making or selling dangerous products. Despite the many obstacles that can come up, there are cases like this one that should remind people that significant damages may be available, and working with an attorney to pursue these damages and collect the compensation they deserve can be crucial.

Source: Metropolitan News-Enterprise, "Court Upholds $18 Million Punitive Award in Asbestos Case," Oct. 23, 2014

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