Former Secretary, Diagnosed with Mesothelioma, Awarded Millions

A woman who worked as a secretary at an asbestos fabrication facility in the 1960s has won a multi-million dollar award after successfully suing several defendants.
Jayne Menssen was exposed to asbestos while on the job at Union Asbestos and Rubber Co., later known as Unacro Industries, Inc., in Bloomington, IL.

According to a statement issued by her attorney, Lisa Corwin, Menssen was employed as a secretary from 1967 to 1969. Her lawsuit named Pneumo Abex LLC and Honeywell International Inc., as well as their corporate predecessors, and claimed that the defendants knew of the risks of asbestos exposure but failed to warn either employees or customers of those risks.

The four-week trial took place in McLean County, IL. After one day of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict and assessed compensatory damages of $3.5 million against both defendants, in addition to $4.37 million in punitive damages against Pneumo Abex and $10 million in punitive damages against Honeywell. Asbestos exposure is the main cause of mesothelioma, a cancer which spreads across the lining of the chest cavity and the membrane covering the lung.

More cases of mesothelioma occur in men than in women, due to the fact that asbestos was widely used in traditionally male-dominated industries such as shipbuilding, factory work and construction. Yet women are certainly vulnerable, as Menssen’s case shows, especially if their exposure to the asbestos particulate was prolonged. Mesothelioma may not become symptomatic until decades after the contact with asbestos-containing materials, but once it is diagnosed it tends to take its toll quickly.

Most patients die within only a few months of learning that they have the disease. Treatments such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are usually not intended to cure the cancer, but instead aim to provide relief from its debilitating and painful symptoms. Over 20,000 people worldwide die from mesothelioma each year.