A California jury awarded $8.8 million in compensatory damages and a historic $200 million in punitive damages to Rhoda Evans, a woman battling mesothelioma cancer that was caused by her exposure while washing her husband’s clothes.
The lawsuit was brought against DWP and CertainTeed. Bobby Evans, Mrs. Evan’s husband, worked for DWP from 1974 to 1998. Mr. Evans was exposed to asbestos on a regular basis while working with pipes manufactured by CertainTeed, according to scpr.org. The toxic asbestos fibers remained on Mr. Evans clothing and Mrs. Evans was exposed to the asbestos dust fibers while washing her husband’s clothes.
The jury determined this exposure to asbestos helped cause Mrs. Rhodes mesothelioma cancer. The jury also found that CertainTeed knew asbestos caused cancer in the early 1960s but the company continued to manufacture asbestos pipes and did not place a cancer warning on them until 1985, according to Mrs. Evans legal counsel.
This is probably why the jury decided to award such a large amount in punitive damages. Essentially, punitive damages are a form of punishment meant to dissuade the at-fault individual or company from performing the same action again while acting as an example to deter others from mimicking their behavior. The $200 million in punitive damages sends a clear message to big companies that their questionable history with asbestos and continuing to expose their employees to such hazardous substances is unacceptable. This is the largest asbestos-related mesothelioma jury award in the state of California, and one of the largest in the country.
Our firm understands how challenging asbestos-induced mesothelioma cases can be. We represented two railroad workers for claims arising under the FELA, the act governing railroad worker injuries or death claims. All railroads, including CSX, NS, Conrail, Amtrak, and others, were known users of asbestos insulation, in engines and in yard and office buildings. Both of our clients were employed by a Class 1 railroad company for over twenty years. R.T., the earlier of the two clients, contracted mesothelioma due to his exposure to asbestos. R.T. retained our firm very close to his untimely death, so we represented his family and the estate in our case against the railroad. D.H. was the other client and he worked for over 25 years for the railroad in freight switching activities and was unaware that he was working with, or even handling, asbestos. It turns out D.H. was exposed to a number of products containing asbestos materials and asbestos insulation, including train cars, locomotive engines, and office buildings and work places that were insulated with asbestos. Tragically, D.H. also passed away due to mesothlioma cancer. We filed lawsuits for the estates of both clients and battled with the railroad company’s defense attorneys. Eventually, we arrived at an acceptable settlement for the families of both clients.
Also, during 2010 we settled a mesothelioma cancer case for a retired railroad engineer who worked during with both steam and diesel engines for decades. He testified about his exposures in a video deposition but unfortunately died before the trial was to occur. The case carried on in his widow’s name. We also are representing a former Conrail engineer who also worked on engines with asbestos boilers or generators. He was diagnosed with this terrible mesothelioma cancer during late 2009, over a decade after retiring believing he was in good health. This toxic insulating fiber known as asbestos is as dangerous (due to causing terminal cancer) as any known substance used in occupational settings in the United States.
In our railroad asbestos disease cases, along with Mrs. Evan’s case in California, big companies had to pay a price for their inaction and negligence related to asbestos. Punitive or punishment damages are not permitted in railroad injury or disease cases under the FELA (federal law) but are permitted in “common law” negligence claims against companies that are liable for causing mesothelioma or asbestos cancers if evidence shows a willful and wanto, reckless disregard for health and safety. Like, hiding damaging documents about health risks for decades.
So many innocent workers were exposed to these poisonous asbestos fibers over the years and we’re now starting to see the consequences. Lives are being ruined. Retired workers who are trying to enjoy the golden years of their life are forced to struggle with mesothelioma, a horrific form of asbestos caused cancer. It’s not right and hopefully more jury verdicts like the one in California will send a clear message to all the big corporations, as well as railroads, that making sure the work place is safe for your employees should be priority No.1.