Most mesothelioma lawsuits never go to trial because defendants often settle before it reaches that point. Buts some cases that do make it to trial also make it to a judge or jury for a verdict.
And many of those end with a verdict that includes significant compensatory and punitive damages awarded to the plaintiff. For example:
- The family of former shipyard worker John K. Bristow of Virginia Beach, Va., was awarded $9.18 million in February 2012 after a jury determined that asbestos manufacturer John Crane, Inc., was responsible for the mesothelioma cancer that killed him. Crane was one of six companies named in the lawsuit but the only one that didn’t settle before the trial began.
- General contractor Bobbie Izell of Hackett, Ark., was awarded $48 in June 2012 by a state-court jury in California after it decided that asbestos-manufacturer Union Carbide concealed the cancer risks in the products it was providing. Izell filed the lawsuit in 2011 after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma.
- Thomas Brown Jr., who once worked in the oil fields of Mississippi, was awarded $322 million for future medical expenses, pain and suffering and punitive damages after a jury determined that Union Carbide Corporation and Chevron Phillips Chemical were liable for his asbestosis. The jury decided that the asbestos products Brown worked with were defectively designed and came without adequate warning to the dangers.
The Brown verdict, which was famous for being the largest asbestos verdict in U.S. history, based on the money, was overturned on appeal in 2012 and the judge on the case was later removed from the bench
Compensatory and Punitive Damages
In an asbestos case, like other civil litigations and mass tort cases, a jury will deliver a verdict at the conclusion of a trial unless the two sides agree to a settlement before then. The outcome will depend on whether the jury thinks the defendant is liable for actions that in some way harmed the plaintiff. In these cases, the liability would be for asbestos exposure and the harm is usually an incurable disease (mesothelioma) or condition (asbestosis). The verdict will take into account liability and compensation.
Your attorney will work to prove that the company – or companies – you are suing is held responsible for damages. If jurors agree, they will decide how much money the defendant should pay you.
Any time a jury issues a verdict for the plaintiff, jurors consider compensatory damages – the the actual economic losses tied to the harm that was caused. Jurors also will consider punitive damages. These serve to set a public example, one that is supposed to deter the defendant (and other companies that have similarly harmed people) from causing similar injuries again. Typically, the more offensive the jury feels the defendant behaved, the larger the punitive damages.
Although juries often get to decide the final amounts awarded to a plaintiff, some states limit compensatory damages. Most states do not cap punitive damages. It is not unusual in mesothelioma verdicts for awards to reach millions of dollars. In many cases, this is because asbestos companies were aware of the dangers of their products and did nothing to protect or warn workers of the associated hazards.
Some other mesothelioma verdicts:
- Alfred Todak won an asbestos lawsuit in 2002 for $33.7 million. Todak was exposed to asbestos in the 1960s while working as a Navy electrician. He later developed mesothelioma.
- Susan Buttitta won a wrongful death suit for $30.3 million in 2006. The suit was filed on behalf of Buttitta’s husband, who had died of mesothelioma.
- Joan Mahoney was awarded $7.1 million in 2008. Her asbestos exposure in the 1970s led to her terminal mesothelioma.
- And in 2011, the families of two lifelong smokers, Eugene McCarthy and Walter Koczur, won a combined $22 million from Goodyear Tire and Rubber and Goodyear Canada. Both were exposed to Goodyear products during their lives, and both died of mesothelioma.
Seeking a Jury Verdict
Working with an experienced mesothelioma attorney can help you decide whether to settle a case or push to get a verdict in court. While getting a jury verdict may result in a large punitive damages award, there is no guarantee. Juries can be surprising, and many attorneys can attest that there are no sure bets in a trial. While the amount of compensation awarded in a settlement may be smaller than an amount expected at trial, it is guaranteed compensation.
A defendant in the case may feel strongly about ending the trial process that it may not want to take the case to a verdict. In that case, there will be a negotiation for a settlement. Ultimately, it will be up to you to accept or decline a settlement offer. There is no magical formula to decide whether to reject an offer and take the case to trial. The issue becomes whether you are ready to end the case by accepting the offer. Only you or your family can answer that question.
Before entering into an out-of-court settlement with a plaintiff, the company will require the involvement of its insurance provider. This ensures that any agreement reached will be paid. In the case of a jury verdict, you may receive a large award, but the defendant's insurance company may fight it, or the company may appeal it. Every case is different and is affected by a number of factors.
Deciding whether to settle or to go after a verdict is a decision best made with the advice of a proven mesothelioma attorney. Attorneys who work with asbestos claims are knowledgeable of the dangers of exposure and the medical expenses asbestos-induced illnesses cause. They understand that monetary awards cannot undo all of the pain and suffering. These attorneys also understand the nature of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, and they realize that a quick resolution to a lawsuit is not only desired but necessary.
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