Summaries with Trial Analysis
$32,000,000 VERDICT – PRODUCT LIABILITY – ASBESTOS EXPOSURE – SAILOR SUES MANUFACTURER AFTER CONTRACTING MESOTHELIOMA FROM SHIP PARTS – PLEURAL MESOTHELIOMA.
New York County, NY
In this matter, a U.S. Navy veteran sued the equipment manufacturers whose asbestos-laded equipment he was exposed to while he was a sailor in the 1960s and 1970s. The plaintiff now suffers from pleural mesothelioma, a form of cancer often linked to asbestos exposure. The defendants denied the subject material caused the disease.
Ronald D. served on seven U.S. Navy vessels between 1960 and 1977. In that time, the plaintiff served as a fireman, boiler tender, and eventually a Master Chief Petty Officer, performing the first two roles on each of the seven vessels. The duties of those positions in- cluded the repair of Crane Co.-manufactured valves and Elliot Turbomachinery Co., Inc.-manufactured de-aerating feed tanks. Both of these activities in- volved the removal of asbestos-containing gaskets and lagging pads.
Many years later, Ronald D. was diagnosed with pleu- ral mesothelioma, a type of cancer often linked to asbestos exposure. The plaintiff cited his exposure to Crane and Elliot products, as well as contact with oth- ers who had themselves performed the same duties, as the causes of his condition.
The plaintiff and his wife filed suit in the Supreme Court of New York, New York County for product liabil- ity, naming manufacturers Crane and Elliot, whose asbestos-containing products he cited as the cause of his cancer, as well as A.W. Chesterton. The plaintiff sought recovery for both past and future pain and suffering.
At trial, the plaintiff brought expert testimony to link the plaintiff’s mesothelioma and asbestos exposure. Testi- fying for the plaintiff were the occupational medicine expert Dr. Jacqueline Moline, Dr. Barry Castelman, a public health expert, and the materials analyst Richard Hatfiled.
The defendants brought Dr. Michael Graham, who testified that chrysotile asbestos does not cause me- sothelioma. They further brought Admiral David Sargeant, who testified about Navy procedures, Cap- tain Charles Watson, who testified about Navy issues and Elliots products, Dr. Samuel Foreman, who testi- fied regarding state-of-the-art evidence, and Donna Ringo, an industrial hygienist who testified on air sam-
pling and related matters. The defendants asserted that the plaintiff’s exposure was the fault of an uniden- tified party and their products. They further faulted the U.S. Navy for the plaintiff’s exposure. Judge Madden did not permit this question to be added to the verdict sheet.
After the conclusion of a nine week trial, the jury de- liberated for an hour and a-half before returning a verdict for the plaintiff. The jury awarded $32 million, including $16 million for past pain and suffering and another $16 million for future pain and suffering. The jury apportioned 99% responsibility to Crane and 1% to Elliot.
Plaintiff’s Causation expert: Jacqueline Moline from New York, NY. Plaintiff’s Materials expert: Richard Hatfield. Plaintiff’s Public Health expert: Barry Castelman. Defendant’s Industrial Hygiene expert: Donna Ringo from Louisville, KY. Defendant’s Materials expert: Michael Graham. Defendant’s Navy Issues experts: David Sargeant and Charles Watson. Defendant’s State-of-the-art Evidence expert: Samuel Foreman.
Ronald Dummitt and Doris Kay Dummitt vs. A.W. Chesterton, et al. Index no. 190459-2010; Judge Joan Madden, 08-30-11.
Attorneys for plaintiffs: Jordan Fox, James Long, Brian Belasky, Seth Dymond, and William Papain of Belluck & Fox in New York, NY. Attorneys for defendant Crane Co.: Jeffrey S. King and Tara Pehush of K&L Gates, LLP in Boston, MA. Attorney for defendant: Katharine S. Perry, Esq. of Adler, Pollock & Sheehan, P.C. in Boston, MA.
This matter was heard contemporaneously to David Konstantin and Ruby Konstantin vs. 630 Third Avenue Associates (190134/2010), an employer liability case involving a carpenter and asbestos-con- taining joint compound. Plaintiff’s counsel in both cases was Belluck & Fox. No punitive damages were sought in either matter due to an order in New York law which has indefinitely deferred all asbestos verdicts containing punitive damages. Chrysotile (“white”) asbestos is the most common form of naturally occurring asbestos, and accounts for 95% of the substance’s use in the United States.
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Volume 28, Issue 9, September 2011