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Jury awards $12.5 million in asbestos death of lifelong smoker

Many residents of North Carolina are smokers and many have been exposed to asbestos fibers. A large number of smokers suffer from one or more asbestos-related diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis or mesothelioma. These people often wonder whether their history of smoking precludes recovering damages from the manufacturers of the asbestos products to which they were exposed. A recent jury verdict provided a heartening example for smokers who suffer from lung diseases that may have been caused by asbestos products exposure.

The plaintiffs' decedent repaired Caterpillar forklifts at a shop in Queens, N.Y. from 1969 to 1980. The forklifts contained asbestos in brake linings, engine gaskets and clutches and the decedent was constantly exposed to airborne asbestos fibers. The decedent was also a two-pack per day smoker. He died in 2014, but his family continued the lawsuit against Caterpillar as a wrongful death case.

The jury found that the man's lung cancer was caused by both cigarettes and the inhalation of asbestos fibers. It placed 55 percent of the fault on Caterpillar and 45 percent on the decedent for smoking cigarettes. It awarded a total of $12.5 million in damages. Because of the allocation of fault, Caterpillar will, in all likelihood, not be required to satisfy the entire judgment. The plaintiffs' attorney argued that the decedent was addicted to cigarettes even though he made numerous efforts to break the habit. Caterpillar, on the other hand, could have ceased the use of asbestos-containing products or provided adequate warnings at any time.

Anyone who has been exposed to asbestos fibers may wish to obtain a medical evaluation of lung function and a possible diagnosis of the presence of a disease caused by asbestos exposure. If the diagnosis is positive, a consultation with a lawyer who specializes in seeking damages for asbestos victims can provide a helpful evaluation of the case and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.

Source: New York Post, "Smoker dies of lung cancer, family wins $12.5M after blaming asbestos," Julia Marsh, Nov. 4, 2016

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