Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins highlight a recent jury award won by a wife who developed mesothelioma from washing her husband's asbestos-laden work clothes. The couple sued Owens-Illinois, the manufacturer of the asbestos-containing products, and ultimately won $27 million.
Throughout the 1950s, Martin Gregg was employed as an insulation installer, handling mostly Kaylo brand insulation materials. As his wife, Rose-Marie Gregg was responsible for laundering her husband's work clothes, which were often coated in a white substance she assumed was leftover insulation material.
That white substance, however, was asbestos. At 82-years-old, Rose-Marie was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer of the lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen. Mesothelioma is almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos, and is an extraordinarily fatal cancer - patients are typically given no longer than one year to live after initial diagnosis.
Kaylo products were manufactured by Owens-Illinois, a company that knew about the dangers of asbestos exposure as early as the 1930s. In fact, internal documents produced at Gregg's trial show that Owens-Illinois tested Kaylo products, the results of which proved that their asbestos content could cause fatal illness in workers.
Despite this knowledge, Owens-Illinois marketed its Kaylo products as "non-toxic," and failed to mention any presence of asbestos on its packaging. The jury decided that Owens-Illinois indeed manufactured a defective product and failed to warn the Greggs about the risks of asbestos exposure.
The jury awarded $12 million to Rose-Marie, $4 million to her husband, and $342,000 to the couple in economic damages. The jury added another $11 million in punitive damages after deciding that Owens-Illinois intentionally withheld its knowledge about asbestos and health hazards of its Kaylo products, acting with malice, oppression, and fraud against the Greggs.
In a similar story, a former drywall worker from California was recently awarded the same amount - $27 million - from his work during the construction boom of the 1970s. The plaintiff, Michael Sutherland, started working as a drywaller in residential and commercial buildings while he was still in high school. For the next 25 years, Sutherland worked in San Diego County, rushing from job to job as a drywaller.
He said he work was "always dusty," and that it was not until 2003, while attending a conference on workplace safety at the University of California at San Diego, that he learned about the abundance of asbestos in building materials. Among those materials included things he had been working with for decades: stucco, roofing materials, joint compound, cement pipe, and fire-resistant drywall.
In May 2012, Sutherland was diagnosed with mesothelioma, and ultimately sued more than 30 companies he believed to be responsible for his asbestos exposure. Several of those companies settled with Sutherland, and only Highland Stucco and Lime Products was left as a defendant.
The case went to trial as Sutherland argued the companies knowingly sold dangerous products and fraudulently failed to warn about its dangers. The jury agreed, and ordered the company to pay Sutherland $26.6 million for exposing him, along with his colleagues and the public, to a known carcinogen.