Last week, the jury of an asbestos lawsuit in a Newport News, VA court awarded Rubert Minton $25 million in his case against Exxon Mobil. Mr. Minton had spent ten years as a supervisor on commercial ships for Newport News Shipbuilding after seven years as a shipfitter constructing the vessels. As a shipyard worker, his responsibilities included repair work on 17 Exxon oil tankers. Years later, Mr. Minton was diagnosed with mesothelioma from asbestos exposure during his time at the shipyard.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen that can release fibers into the air which, when inhaled, can lead to a number of health problems including mesothelioma cancer. Shipyard workers and shipbuilders worked with asbestos products in different areas of the ship because of its resistance to heat, electrical, and chemical damage. Asbestos was used in over 300 products on ships until the 1970’s. In fact, it has been estimated that larger ships during this time period contained over 1,000 tons of asbestos.
Legal actions against ship owners like Exxon Mobil, rather than against the makers of asbestos-containing ship parts, is a fairly recent turn in asbestos lawsuits. Also, Mr. Minton’s $25 million victory is one of the largest awards to date in a Virginia personal injury case. According to the jury, Mr. Minton’s legal team was able to show that Exxon had been aware of the health issues associated with asbestos exposure (they began protecting refinery workers in the 1930’s), but still failed to warn shipbuilders and crewmembers on their oil tankers. Mr. Minton underwent major lung operations in 2009 for his mesothelioma and doctors believe his life expectancy was extended beyond 18 months to 3-5 years.
If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos or diagnosed with mesothelioma, a mesothelioma attorney may be able to help.