$90M Mesothelioma Verdict Based on Evidence of Conspiracy by Manufacturers and Employers | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

After hearing evidence for five weeks, a jury in McLean County, Illinois (IL), awarded a retired pipefitter who developed mesothelioma after spending years working with asbestos insulation a total of $89.6 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The defendants — Honeywell International Inc., Pneumo Abex, Owens-Illinois Inc. and John Crane Inc. — were found to have participated in a conspiracy to conceal the dangers asbestos fibers posed to employee and to have failed to warn workers about, or protect them against, breathing in airborne asbestos.

These videos explain what mesothelioma is, how it develops and what symptoms the incurable disease causes:

Unsurprisingly, Owens-Illinois, which was a leading manufacturer of asbestos products for much of the middle of the last century, has vowed to fight paying its share of the verdict. The company denies having known and kept silent about deadly occupational illnesses linked to workplace exposure to asbestos. As a Virginia (VA) personal injury and wrongful death attorney who has represented dozens of mesothelioma sufferers, however, I know that corporations that made and used asbestos insulation learned of the risks as early as the 1930s.

Because I specialize in helping former railroad workers pursue FELA claims against railroads, I have learned that many, if not most, corporations went out their way to continue using materials and enforcing work procedures and policies that unnecessarily imperiled their employees’ short- and long-term health. I also know that because mesothelioma can develop as long as 40 years after asbestos exposure, cases of the fatal lung disease will continue cropping up in retired railroaders, shipyard workers, military personnel, factory workers, plumbers and former members of all professions for decades to come.

While claims for punitive damages cannot be brought under the provisions of the Federal Employers Liability Act, the law does hold employers who acted negligently in unsafely exposing employees to asbestos to strict liability. That law, and welcome verdicts like the one in Illinois, go a long way to holding companies responsible for the pain and suffering they caused workers they failed to adequately protect.