A San Francisco jury recently awarded a $3.4 million verdict the family of a man who was diagnosed with mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos while working at a Johns-Manville plant.
The plaintiff, Advocate Mines Unlimited, was an asbestos mining firm in Baie Verte, Newfoundland which supplied asbestos to Johns-Manville. The jury found that the company was negligent in failing to warn Johns-Manville employees about the hazards of working with the toxic mineral.
Richard Worthley, Sr. worked at the Waukegan, IL, Johns-Manville plant from 1968 to 1984, at which point the plant closed down and Worthley relocated to California. Worthley was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in 2004.
Mesothelioma is a rare but fatal cancer which is exclusively linked to exposure to asbestos.
Worthley’s family claimed that he was exposed to asbestos during his tenure at the Waukegan plant, where he cleaned and repaired Transite manufacturing equipment and dust collection equipment, including bag houses, ventilators and cyclones, as well as Transite asbestos-cement pipe. The dust that was used in the manufacture of these products was airborne, resulting in millions of microscopic asbestos fibers being inhaled by Worthley and other plant workers.
Asbestos was widely used in the mid-20th Century as an insulating and building material, and was valued by contractors and manufacturers for its flameproof and heat-resistant qualities, as well as its strength, durability and flexibility. Yet when it becomes disturbed, or “friable,” its millions of sharp, needle-like fibers can be inhaled and become embedded in the body’s organs and other soft tissues. One of the soft tissues that is particularly vulnerable to asbestos fibers is the mesothelium, which is a protective lining of the chest cavity. Asbestos fibers lodged in the mesothelium can develop into mesothelioma or other cancers, although the diseases are not generally diagnosed until decades after the initial exposure, at which point treatment is less effective and life expectancy is short.
Evidence in the Worthley civil case proved that according to the standards of medical and scientific research in 1968, asbestos exposure was known to cause serious illness. Advocate Mines Limited, however, supplied the fiber to manufacturers without issuing warnings about the potential dangers of the material.
As a result, the jury awarded $877,750 in economic damages in $2.5 million in non-economic damages to the Worthley family in July 2009.