More companies are taking asbestos cases to trial, or so it seems, only to find the results not what they had hoped for. Today's juries often rule against them and in favor of those suffering from asbestos related diseases. Two boiler companies recently learned the hard way when a New York City jury awarded a $190 million verdict against Cleaver Brooks Inc and Burnham LLC. The joint trial entailed five tradesmen who were exposed to asbestos dust and were later diagnosed with having developed mesothelioma. They worked in the steamfitting, plumbing and construction industries. Three of the five had passed away prior to the verdict coming down. (The story was first reported by NYC reporter Julia Marsh who covers the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan.)
This verdict, like others of late, might be indicative of certain trends. First, the asbestos industry is taking more cases to trial. Whether it's a matter of principle, business strategy or rolling the dice, this appears to be the trend. This makes it all the more important that families that hire a mesothelioma attorney must ensure that they have hired someone who can successfully take the case to trial if need be. And second, juries are quite comfortable holding companies responsible for what they did and what the failed to do. This isn't about the so called jackpot justice; these jurors are smart and when they are presented with the evidence they are able to reach the right result. Lastly, verdicts like these are not isolated in the New York area. They are happening all over the country. Considersome recent Crane Co. verdicts, for example. They run from coast to coast.
- March 2013: A New York jury awards $35 million to an asbestos worker after Crane Co., failed to warn about the dangers of asbestos containing products.
- August 2012: A Los Angeles jury renders a $32 million verdict against Crane Co. (and rejects Crane Co's argument that it is entitled to the government contractor defense).
There does not appear to be an end in the foreseeable future to the increased number of trials. I predict they will continue, as will the rightfully large verdicts that speak to accountability.
As vindicating as trials often are, we must remember thatno verdict can replace a loved one. No amount of money can take away the pain felt by these families. All we can ask for is that the civil justice system do its job. These companies that needlessly exposed folks to asbestos profited greatly: a verdict is never sufficient, but it does restore part of the balance.