Family of Former Mill Worker Stricken By Mesothelioma Receives Settlement

Pittsburgh, PA—The family of a mesothelioma victim has received compensation after a jury ruled in their favor. Barry Baumener, a former worker for a steel mill in Reading, was diagnosed with the deadly asbestos cancer in April 2009. He died just a few short months later, in October; an extremely short life expectancy after diagnosis is one of the hallmarks of this disease.

In May, Baumener and his family decided to bring suit against several companies, including Ferro Engineering, a division of Oglebay Norton Co. of Ohio. All of the 25 companies settled out of court with the exception of Ferro. The allegations were that Ferro, among other companies, sold asbestos-containing products to the mill where Baumener worked, without adequately notifying workers there of the hazards involved with asbestos materials. Last week, after a two-week trial, a jury awarded Baumener’s family a $50 million verdict. Ferro will pay $2 million, since the jury ordered each of the 25 defendants to pay four percent of the total verdict. The other 24 companies that settled out of court, however, are immune to this ruling.

Asbestos was once a common component of mills, factories, shipyards and other workplaces, where it was used primarily for insulation purposes. It has been tightly regulated, and phased out in some capacities, since the 1980s, but remains in place in a number of existing structures. Additionally, it is still commonly used in some developing nations

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that develops from the inhalation of asbestos dust, which contains tiny, sharp particles that can penetrate the body’s soft tissues. These fibers can embed themselves in the mesothelium, a tissue lining the inside of the thoracic cavity, and lead to a wide-reaching tumor. Mesothelioma, a rare cancer which is diagnosed in only 2,000 to 3,000 new patients in the U.S. each year, is aggressive and incurable.

Often the patients are not good candidates for traditional cancer treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy, either because of the location of the tumor or because the patient is not strong enough to withstand intense treatment. Attorneys for the Baumener family declined to say how large the total settlement was, but did indicate that it was far less than $50 million.