San Francisco, CA—An appellate court in California has upheld a verdict of $20 million which was previously awarded to a mesothelioma patient and her husband.
Joan Mahoney, who was a singer by trade but who also helped her husband with a family-based home-remodeling business, contracted mesothelioma after years of exposure to asbestos-containing joint compound. Mahoney and her husband built and remodeled houses for nearly 30 years. After being diagnosed with the asbestos cancer in 2006—a diagnosis which left her unable to care for her paralyzed husband—Mrs. Mahoney brought suit against Georgia Pacific, Bondex, Kaiser Gypsum, Durabond and CertainTeed. The court ruled in favor of Mahoney, and named Georgia Pacific responsible for 30% of the damages, but the trial court later reduced the amount of damages to approximately $6.2 million.
The joint compound used by the Mahoneys contained toxic asbestos, which Mrs. Mahoney inhaled over the years of remodeling work. The asbestos fibers, which are sharp and needle-like, have the ability to penetrate into the lungs and the mesothelium—a membrane which surrounds and protects the lungs—causing scarring and abnormal cell division. Mesothelioma, the resultant cancer, is particularly resistant to treatment and is currently considered incurable. Some of the symptoms of mesothelioma include chest or rib pain, wheezing, breathing difficulties, and cough. Chemotherapy and radiation can be administered to help slow the spread of the disease and make the patient more comfortable, but also have such adverse side effects that many patients opt not to undergo these treatments. Over 2,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the United States, and there are a number of lawsuits pending against the companies and manufacturers which allowed asbestos to be used on work sites without informing their employees or consumers of the dangers of the material. The appeals court in the Mahoney case recently ruled that the plaintiff shall receive the full $20 million in damages which was initially awarded, and says that the fully verdict is “amply supported” by testimony and evidence presented against the defendant companies at trial.