Removal from Major Asbestos Case Prompted by Father’s Illness

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that “The Mississippi Supreme Court granted a request by Dow Chemical Co.’s Union Carbide unit to disqualify the judge who presided over an asbestos trial that ended with a $322 million verdict against the company.” The news source reports that the defendant, Union Carbide, felt Circuit Court Judge Eddie Bowen did not give them a fair trial because his father “suffered from asbestosis, a disease caused by the mineral that sickened plaintiff Thomas Brown.” The court had Bowen removed, halting all proceedings until they appoint a new judge, commenting that “‘a reasonable person, knowing all of the circumstances, would harbor doubts about Judge Bowen’s impartiality in this particular case,’” Bloomberg reports. The news source goes on to explain that according to their data, the verdict “is the largest ever made to a single asbestos case plaintiff,” though the news source also reports that a “state punitive-damages cap would erase at least $260 million.” The court order to stop this trial did not address “the status of the verdict,” Bloomberg reports. According to the news source, “Bowen’s father filed two asbestos lawsuits, one of which is still pending, and both his parents had settled a claim with Union Carbide and other defendants based on a diagnosis of asbestosis,” an independent investigation by Dow found. A Union Carbide spokesman announced that they are pleased with the ruling of the state Supreme Court, calling the jury verdict “outrageous and completely unsupported by the facts and applicable law,” the news source explains. The lawyer for Brown, the plaintiff, could not be reached for comment. Bloomberg explains that Brown “developed asbestosis after being exposed to the toxic fibers while mixing drilling mud on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.” The news source writes that according to Brown, Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. and Union Carbide knew of the dangers of asbestos exposure, yet did not warn him. According to his lawyer, Brown must now be on oxygen 24 hours a day, the news source reports. Asbestosis is a respiratory condition that results from the inhalation of asbestos fibers. Once inside the lungs, these tiny fibers cause damaging scarring in the lung tissue, which leads to serious breathing difficulties and can prove fatal. The Bloomberg article goes on to report that a circuit court administrator “said in a phone interview that Bowen said he isn’t permitted to comment on the matter.” According to a court statement, Bowen was sworn in as a judge at the Raleigh, Mississippi September of last year.
Harris, Andrew. (October 6, 2011) “Union Carbide Judge Removed From $322 Million-Verdict Case.” Retrieved on October 7, 2011 from Bloomberg Businessweek.
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