Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that dates back to 4000 B.C. During the Industrial Revolution, use grew in a variety of products, spurring on mining and manufacturing. Today, asbestos is responsible for serious illnesses, specifically mesothelioma. While consumers were told that the pluses of use were numerous, the companies touting the fibers were aware of its deadly dangers.
Our firm recently accomplished a massive legal win for asbestos victims around the nation, awarding the widow of a mesothelioma sufferer $32.7 million in compensatory damages. The case was brought all the way to the Fourth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals, and it may support a lower burden of proof for victims of dangerous asbestos in the future.
Two Decades of Asbestos Exposure
For 20 years, Franklin Finch worked at the Firestone Tire Plant based in Wilson, North Carolina. For all but eight weeks of his tenure, Mr. Finch worked in the curing room, changing tires in the tire mold press. All 120 steam-operated tire presses were connected to several pipes filled with insulation containing asbestos provided by Covil Corporation.
Unbeknownst to Mr. Finch, he was exposed to asbestos from the presses workday after workday. His proximity to the dust resulted in a diagnosis of mesothelioma, a disease that led to his death. Ann Finch, his widow, subsequently filed wrongful death actions on behalf of her late husband, claiming that the manufacturing and installation, not to mention the products themselves, caused his demise.
The original lawsuit involved multiple defendants. In the end, Covil was the sole corporation that went to trial. The jury found that the company liable, awarding Mrs. Finch $32.7 million in compensatory damages.
An appellate court rejected Covil’s appeal., which allowed the initial ruling to stand. The decision could provide hope for future litigants, if not an easier path towards holding companies accountable for their workers falling ill from asbestos exposure.
Yet, despite the multiple, high-profile lawsuits, the link to mesothelioma, and more than 50 countries banning the mineral, asbestos remains a legal substance in the United States and major countries worldwide. Powerful industry lobbyists continue to put up roadblocks while more people nationally and worldwide suffer severe health conditions from a disease without a cure.