In 2000, a retired Navy seaman was awarded with compensation for significant injuries he suffered from, but not only was the defendant found guilty on charges of negligence, but also fraudulent conduct. The defendant was an Illinois based manufacturer of asbestos products.
The established evidence convinced the jury to conclude the defendant’s involvement in a conspiracy with other asbestos corporations. It turned out that they had willingly concealed facts with regard to the harmful and hazardous nature of asbestos and furthermore misrepresented the potential danger of the material to their workers. In addition to that “committed malice and oppression in its conduct” was determined by the jury in charge.
An 82 year old former machinist from Los Angeles was awarded damages he suffered as a result of exposure to asbestos during his course of employment. The defendant, a local asbestos manufacturer was found guilty on the charges of malice, fraud and oppression.
If it can be proven that an employer has willing fully and purposefully injured a worker, the employee may have the legal grounds for mesothelioma litigation. The two aforementioned cases are typical examples of mesothelioma litigations, which are constituted by a victim seeking monetary compensation for his expenses, the loss of income as well as pain and suffering. Further to that and dependent on the state and jurisdiction, punitive damages may apply.
Punitive damages are ordered payments that go beyond the victim’s compensation and therefore, in essence, designed to punish corporate misconduct. They are seen as a message to other corporations that such negligence and unlawful actions won’t be tolerated.
Let’s have a look at the history of mesothelioma litigation. The first asbestos product lawsuit was litigated by a lawyer from Texas. The case was filed back in 1966. The plaintiff was a retired asbestos worker from Louisiana. On the defendant’s side, there were eleven corporations. The official diagnosis the plaintiff had received read “pulmonary dust disease”, which resembled all the symptoms of asbestosis. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants did know of the danger of asbestos, or at least had an obligation to be aware of the hazard, but failed to warn him. Charges were dropped on six of the original defendants; the other five eventually agreed on a compensation settlement that was put together outside of the court. But the story doesn’t end here, because in 1969, another lawsuit was filed against some of the same defendants by a former co-worker of the previous plaintiff. He was actually diagnosed with mesothelioma, which was back then even rarer than it is nowadays. He died only eight months after he testified in his own case. A ‘before court settlement’ was achieved with four of the defendants, before the actual trial eventually went into court in 1970.
As the trial evolved, a designated accident prevention hired by one of the defendants, testified that the corporation could not be held responsible, since he had never heard of toxicity caused by asbestos prior to 1964. Ironically, his wife died later due to malignant mesothelioma.
In 1977 a significant discovery revealed a major corporate conspiracy. In the process of litigating a case of former employees of a Manhattan (NYC) based asbestos manufacturer and product supplier, the lawyer in charge went through the company’s annual statement and found an astounding statement. The company had obviously hired an insurance company to conduct a survey of their manufacturing sites with focus employee safety and health. Apparently, the findings of the survey indicated an increased potential hazard and risk to the workers caused by their exposure to asbestos. These documents went into the books as the so called ‘Sumner Simpson Papers’. Consequently, a flood of mesothelioma and asbestos lawsuits emerged and continues to keep jurisdictions all across the nation busy with compensation settlement claims.