Court sustains $5.5 million asbestos verdict for boiler worker

In a ruling that could help North Carolina residents who are suffering from mesothelioma recover damages from manufacturers of asbestos-containing products, a state appellate court affirmed a $5.5 million dollar verdict in favor of a plaintiff who alleged that on-the-job contact with asbestos during high school and college caused him to contract the lethal disease. The court rejected the argument of the product’s manufacturer, Crane Company, that the plaintiff had failed to prove that he had come into contact with any of its asbestos-containing products.

The plaintiff worked for a boiler repair company during summers from 1962 to 1966 while he was in high school and college. He contracted mesothelioma at age 64. The plaintiff’s summer employer specialized in refurbishing boilers, which involved removing and replacing damaged insulation. The plaintiff testified that he used an asbestos-insulating cement manufactured by Crane and a gasket material called “Cranite,” also manufactured by Crane. Both products released a significant amount of asbestos fibers while the plaintiff was using them. Crane argued that the plaintiff’s testimony did not support the jury’s finding that these products had been defectively designed.

The court rejected this argument. The court ruled that the fact that the products contained asbestos was by itself sufficient proof of a design defect. Further, the court ruled that the fact that asbestos fibers were released during normal and reasonable use of the two products was proof that the products’ designs were defective.

This ruling will help people who are seeking damages for illnesses, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis, that are caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. Individuals with mesothelioma symptoms may want to get more information in order to determine whether their claims are worth pursuing.

Source: Washington Examiner, “Jury verdict affirmed: Evidence presented at trial supported design defect claim, Calif. court says,” May 13, 2014