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$81.5 million awarded in wrongful asbestos-related death case

$81.5 million was the verdict in an asbestos- related death case last week - it was among the largest amounts ever awarded in the state. The award went to the family of a heavy equipment operator who died in 2015 from complications associated with mesothelioma that resulted from asbestos exposure.

NAPA Auto Parts and Genuine Parts Corp. were found to be strictly liable for their companies' asbestos-containing products that led to the victim's death.

A product liability claim is usually brought under the ory of strict liability. Strict liability does not require a showing of negligence, but rather only requires proof that a product was dangerous or defective and someone was injured because of that dangerous or defective product.

In this wrongful death case, NAPA and GP were also found to be negligent, meaning that not only was their product dangerous, but they themselves were careless, and that carelessness resulted in jury to the victim.

The victim in this case was an excavator who operated construction equipment that was made or sold by NAPA and GP. He also bought asbestos-containing parts from NAPA to fuel his hobby of restoring hot rod and classic cars. Unbeknownst to the victim, the parts and equipment contained asbestos which ultimately led to his contraction of mesothelioma.

Under the Asbestos Information Act, employers are required to provide education, protection and medical monitoring prior to exposing employees to asbestos. It is also illegal to manufacture or sell products suspected of posing a risk without warning.

Unfortunately, non-compliance with such federal law is not uncommon. Even after the harmful effects of asbestos were widely known, companies continued to manufacture and sell asbestos-containing products. This has led to many cases of fatal asbestos exposure.

Cases such as this one are continuing to surface given the typically long latency period of mesothelioma. The disease can remain dormant for decades before a victim shows signs of illness.

Fortunately, the law can provide some relief to either those suffering or to victims' families. Despite the often difficult nature of proving that victims' deaths were in fact caused by fatal asbestos exposure years ago, many are still able to prevail in court, as evidenced by this landmark case.

Source: AutoServiceWorld, NAPA, Genuine Parts found liable in asbestos-related death, Adam Malik, April 21, 2017

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