May 09, 2011

$322M Asbestos Verdict is Largest Ever

Late last week, a jury in Mississippi handed down the largest-ever verdict in an asbestos case, awarding $322 million in damages to a former oil field worker who developed health related problems linked to asbestos exposure.

Attorneys for Thomas C. Brown, a 48-year-old former oil field "roughneck," argued that Brown had inhaled asbestos dust on the job, and that the manufacturers and sellers of the asbestos (defendants Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. and Union Carbide Corp.) failed to take proper steps to warn of the dangers of the materials. Brown developed asbestosis and other health problems after years on the job, and now needs to be on oxygen around the clock. A civil court jury in Jackson, Mississippi sided with Brown and ordered the companies to pay up, to the tune of $322 million. That's the largest single verdict ever in an asbestos case, at least according to one of Brown's lawyers. The defendants have (surprise, surprise) called the verdict outrageous and are vowing to fight the award via an appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Brown's asbestos-related health problems stemmed from on-the-job exposure that began over 30 years ago, but asbestos is still a problem (and sometimes an unavoidable one) for a lot of workers in the U.S. As many as 1.3 million people in the U.S. are exposed to significant amounts of asbestos in the workplace, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Get more information on asbestos -- including related health and legal issues -- in Nolo's Asbestos, Chemicals, and Toxic Torts topic.