$25 Million Awarded to Former Exxon Employee With Mesothelioma

A former worker at a Virginia shipyard was awarded $25 million in an asbestos-related lawsuit against Exxon, reports MSNBC.  According to the article, Bert Minton, a 72-year-old man from Carolton, VA, did shipfitting and supervising work at the Newport News Shipyard in the 1960s and 1970s.  As a direct result of this work, MSNBC says, Minton contracted mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer that attacks the lining of the chest or abdominal cavities. According to the report, Minton worked on about 17 commercial oil tankers for Exxon while employed at the shipyard.  Many such ships built in the mid-20th century contained asbestos as a fire-preventing substance, largely in the boiler room where extreme temperatures were a potential hazard.  While asbestos was effective in that capacity, it also proved to be incredibly dangerous to those who lived on or worked on the ship.  Workers in shipyards were particularly at risk, since the process of removing or installing ship components often released toxic asbestos fibers into the air. Minton’s lawyers argued that Exxon was aware of the dangers that asbestos posed as early as 1937, but did nothing to warn those that worked on its ships, says MSNBC.  In return, the article explains, Exxon argues that because Minton worked on many ships over the course of his life, it was impossible to say which of them made him sick, and that the shipyard should have been responsible for protecting its own workers.  According to MSNBC, however, workers cannot sue shipyards because of workman’s compensation law and because of the Navy’s defense contracting law.  Ultimately, the jury sided with Minton, explains the report, awarding him one of the largest jury payouts in Virginia history. Sadly, according to doctors cited by MSNBC, Minton likely has only two years left to live.  Because mesothelioma symptoms can take between 20 and 50 years after asbestos exposure to become apparent, by the time the disease is diagnosed, it is often in its later stages and extremely difficult to treat.  It is not clear whether this was the case with Minton, but regardless, Minton’s attorney Bobby Hatten claims the defendant faces a painful death, says MSNBC. However, Hatten remains optimistic about the precedent set by this case, the article explains, which shows that Exxon was aware of the link between use of asbestos in its ships and mesothelioma cancer.  Says Hatten, “Exxon got a good, old-fashioned horse whipping is what it is.” References: MSNBC Staff Writer. (March 17, 2011). “Man wins $25 million in Exxon lawsuit.” Retrieved March 21, 2011 from MSNBC. Previous: Most Common Mesothelioma Treatments: Surgery Next: Five Types of Mesothelioma and Their Causes