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Faulty respirator leads to $16 million asbestos verdicts

Most people in North Carolina are familiar with respirator masks, those small paper-like masks that cover the lower half of a person's face. The masks are sold for a number of different purposes, from preventing inhalation of dust while cleaning a garage or attic to keeping asbestos fibers out of workers' lungs. Unfortunately, not all such masks are effective in preventing the inhalation of asbestos fibers, and not all manufacturers took pains to warn workers of this failing. In a recent case in California, a jury awarded $16 million in compensatory damages to a machinist who used the masks but was unaware of the fact that they could not prevent asbestos product exposure.

The plaintiff was a machinist at a foundry, where he frequently worked with materials and products that contained asbestos fibers. His employer provided him with respirator masks made by American Optical Corporation, but no one told the plaintiff that the masks were not effective in keeping asbestos fibers out of his lungs. Evidence showed that the mask used by the plaintiff was neither designed nor intended by AOC to prevent inhalation of asbestos fibers. AOC argued that the employer should have taken more precautions to prevent asbestos exposure, but the jury rejected this argument.

In ruling in favor of the plaintiff, the jury found that AOC's respirator was defective because it did not provide adequate protection against asbestos fibers. The verdict includes damages for past and future economic loss, medical expenses, pain and suffering. The plaintiff's wife was awarded damages for loss of companionship, love, comfort, care and assistance. The defendant had no immediate comment on the verdict.

This case shows another type of lawsuit that can obtain compensation for victims of asbestos exposure. The manufacturers of the asbestos-containing products to which the plaintiff was exposed may not have been known, but the plaintiff was able to obtain compensation from the manufacturer of a product that was supposed to offer protection but did not.

Source: LegalReader, "AOC Hit With $16M Asbestos Verdict," Eric Needs, April 29, 2016

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