$322 million asbestos verdict may be largest ever

A Mississippi man with asbestosis has been awarded $322 million in damages, reports MSNBC, believed to be the largest single-plaintiff verdict related to asbestos exposure.  Thomas C. Brown, who is 48 years old, successfully sued the Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. and the Union Carbide Corp. for exposure to asbestos from working with the companies’ drilling mud products, according to the article. Brown began working in the oil field at the age of 16, where he soon encountered the asbestos-containing drilling mud mix sold by Chevron Phillips Chemical and manufactured by Union Carbide, says MSNBC.  According to Brown’s lawyer, Allen Hossley, “Although the asbestos was known to cause cancer and lung disease, CP Chem and Union Carbide continued to market these almost 100-percent-pure asbestos products long after they knew the dangers.” According to the report, 30 years elapsed between Brown’s exposure and his diagnosis of asbestosis.  This latency period is typical of asbestos-related diseases.  Even after exposure has ceased, asbestos fibers remain in the lungs and other body tissues, causing damage that results in inflammation and scar tissue that can ultimately lead to asbestosis, mesothelioma, or lung cancer.  While Brown has been fortunate so far to escape cancer, his current condition requires him to remain on oxygen 24 hours a day, says MSNBC. The attorney for Chevron Phillips Chemical intends to appeal, the article reports, and Union Carbide issued a statement claiming “that, while Mr. Brown suffers from shortness of breath, such condition is not attributable to asbestos exposure.”  However, according to MSNBC, evidence from the trial clearly showed that the drilling mud products in question bore labels that warned of the danger of asbestos. Tragically, at the time Brown used these products, he was unable to read, says the report.  One strategy of the defense team, says the news source, was to argue that since Brown could not read, the warning would not have made any difference to him and thus the defendants could not be held responsible for his illness.  However, the jury disagreed with this argument, awarding Brown $300 million in punitive damages and $22 million in actual damages, according to the article. Reference: Byrd, Sheila. (May 6, 2011). “Miss. jury awards man $322M in asbestos lawsuit.” Retrieved May 16, 2011 from MSNBC. Previous: Advocacy Groups Upset By Silicosis Regulation Delay Next: Study Shows That One in Four Cases of Mesothelioma Go Unreported