Joan Mahoney, a former film actress and USO entertainer, is suffering from mesothelioma. According to her legal counsel, the asbestos fibers to which she was exposed came from a compound used to fill cracks in gypsum wallboard and plaster. During the late 1960s, she and her husband Daniel relocated to the Lake Tahoe area, where she worked part time in her husband’s renovation company. The product she and her husband used was manufactured by Georgia-Pacific, which has now been ordered by the San Francisco Superior Court to pay over $7 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Corporate defense attorney John Childs was quoted as saying that GP management “… sympathize(s) with Mrs. Mahoney and her family…however, based on the use, frequency and amount of exposure she has described–as well as the type of asbestos fiber that was contained in our joint compound–it is highly unlikely that a product formerly made by GP could have caused her injuries and illness.”
Not so, according to the complaint. Georgia Pacific, like other corporations such as Raybestos, W.R. Grace and Company, and the infamous Johns-Manville, continued the manufacture long after the health hazards of asbestos were known and suitable alternatives to asbestos were available. Georgia-Pacific was not the only guilty party, but it was the only defendant in this particular case. The jury had assessed the total damages at $20 million. Under the rules of “shared liability,” GP’s share was determined to be 30 percent of that amount. The Mahoneys reached out-of-court settlements with the other parties. Ms. Mahoney, now nearing age 70, said that she was “… happy that in the last part of my life, I’ve been able to make a difference in the corporate conduct of Georgia Pacific.” GP representative stated that the verdict would be appealed.