A chemical plant that tried to skirt its responsibility and get out of a $14 million payment had no such luck, as the South Carolina Court of Appeals upheld the mesothelioma verdict initially ruled by a three-judge panel in 2015.
Dennis Seay was exposed to asbestos during his work at Celanese Corporation, resulting in mesothelioma and his subsequent death. Dennis’ family pursued legal action against the company, claiming that Celanese failed to protect him from asbestos exposure. To make matters worse, Celanese was fully aware of the risks of asbestos but chose to ignore them.
About the Celanese Lawsuit
Dennis Seay was a maintenance worker at Celanese’s polyester plant in Spartanburg, SC from 1971 to 1980, exposing him to asbestos through several products, including insulation, packing and gaskets. Dennis was diagnosed with mesothelioma over 3 decades later, in 2013, at the age of 69. He died a year later.
Dennis’ daughter recognized the wrongs endured by her father and her family and sued Celanese Corporation, John Crane and several other manufacturers for their negligence and recklessness. The lawsuit specifically sought punitive damages because Celanese made the conscious decision to hide information and fail to protect its workers.
All the manufacturers, except Celanese and John Crane, were dismissed or settled outside of court. The evidence against the companies included:
- A 1963 memorandum that explained how Celanese would conceal toxic hazard information
- The attendance of Celanese’s medical director at a 1964 conference that discussed the dangers of asbestos exposure
- Numerous industrial journals sent to Celanese from the 1930s to 1970s that mentioned the risks of toxic materials
Ultimately, Celanese was found responsible for Dennis’ asbestos exposure and subsequent death. The Seay family was awarded $12 million for pain and suffering, wrongful death and loss of consortium, as well as an additional $2 million in punitive damages.
$14 Million Mesothelioma Verdict Appealed by Celanese
Celanese immediately pursued all its available options to avoid responsibility after the $14 million verdict. Celanese requested a new trial, a judgment notwithstanding the verdict and a motion to reduce the damages.
Celanese was granted an appeal trial, in which the corporation attempted to challenge the verdict on numerous claims, including:
- Dennis Saeys wasn’t a statutory employee
- Jurors had engaged in premature deliberations
- Jurors were influenced by outside information
Fortunately for the family, the South Carolina appeals court rejected every one of these claims. The jury recognized that Celenese was grasping at straws and trying anything within its power to hide from its long history of negligence and employee endangerment.
An Upheld Mesothelioma Verdict
On February 15, 2019, the Court of Appeals upheld the original mesothelioma verdict and ordered Celanese to pay the $14 million sentence.
“Celanese was fully aware of the asbestos hazards encountered by contractors like Dennis, yet they had a widespread company policy of concealment that their executives memorialized in a memo.” — Chris Panatier, Trial Lawyer
“[Celanese] stated that any inquiries from employees about hazards should be met with statements by the company that ’emphasize that the data is inconclusive’ and that ‘exposures were being monitored and controlled below appropriate limits.’ It wasn’t true, and the jury saw that.”
Cases like these set an example for other companies and manufacturers who chose to prioritize profits and self-interests over employee health and safety. Asbestos exposure continues to be a severe health risk, and employers are responsible for keeping their employees safe and healthy.
Holding Companies Responsible
Celanese, a public-traded chemical company (NYSE: CE) based out of Texas, has been held responsible for the damage it inflicted upon a maintenance worker and his family. Dennis’ wife and kids will never get their loved one back, but they can take comfort knowing justice has finally been served.
If you or someone you love has been exposed to asbestos while on the job, contact the Mesothelioma Cancer Network at (888) 360-4215. Our Justice Support Team will review your case for free and discuss any legal options you may have.