A former marine machinist, Robert “Bobby” Hilt of Vallejo, California, won $7.5 million in a mesothelioma lawsuit, which is one of the highest settlements for a patient as old as the 64-year-old Hilt in California courts’ history. Bobby Hilt was diagnosed with mesothelioma earlier in 2008, nearly a year from his trial. Mesothelioma is an almost always fatal cancer of the tissues lining the lungs. Currently there is no effective treatment for the disease, which is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. In most cases, mesothelioma does not develop until decades after exposure. Scientists are not sure why this is, but they do agree that asbestos exposure does lead to the cancer. Patients typically only survive for 12 to 18 months after their diagnosis of mesothelioma.
Hilt sued 11 defendants for causing his exposure to asbestos during his work as a machinist in the 1960s through the 1970s. He claimed that the defendants either made, supplied, or distributed the asbestos-containing materials around which he worked during his career. Hilt’s career involved a stint at the Bayshore plant for Schlage Lock Company from 1963 to 1965. After that time, he moved to work at the Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard until 1972. During the early part of the 1970s, Hilt worked as a machinist in the nuclear reactor compartments of the Sturgeon submarines at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. It was during this decade of working at these places that Hilt feels he inhaled asbestos fibers that led to his mesothelioma. Since after his time at the shipyards, he went to work at the U.S. Mint in San Francisco from 1972 until he retired in 2004. The trial began early in November 2008, but two weeks into the proceedings, there were no longer any defendants still in court as the last of the eleven had chosen to settle out of court. Hilt and his wife declined to make a statement on the settlement.