Jury Awards Widow $2.59 Million in Mesothelioma Lawsuit

Bridgeport, CT—A Superior Court jury has awarded the wife of an ex-Navy firefighter who died from asbestos-related cancer nearly $2.6 million.

Gail Fortier, of Port Orange, FL, will be paid $2,595,000 by Allis-Chalmers Co., a manufacturing company that used asbestos to insulate its pumps and other products.
Fortier’s husband, David, suffered from mesothelioma, which is a rare and extremely deadly cancer that is caused by asbestos inhalation. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1969 to 1972, and worked for most of that time as a fireman on the USS Forrestal aircraft carrier. A devastating fire had broken out on that ship, killing 134 sailors and injuring 161 others, just two years before Fortier’s service began.

Fortier worked with pumps and other equipment that was heavily insulated with asbestos. Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral which has extraordinary heat-resistant and fireproofing properties, has been used for centuries in insulation and other building materials. It has been legally classified as a toxin, but remains in many existing structures. When asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged, it becomes “friable,” releasing millions of microscopic fibers into the air. These fibers, when breathed in by persons on or near the site, or by those with whom they come in contact, penetrate the lungs and other organs and can lead to mesothelioma or other deadly diseases.

Because of asbestos’s widespread use as an insulating material on ships and in shipyards, ex-Navy personnel are especially susceptible to asbestos cancers. Some sources say that up to 26% of mesothelioma patients are former sailors or shipyard workers.

The Fortier case is the first asbestos-related lawsuit to go to verdict in Connecticut in two decades, said the plaintiff’s lawyer, Christopher Meisenkothen. The trial lasted two months, after which a six-person jury deliberated for less than two days before deciding on the award.

Added Meisenkothen, “We are pleased with the result and Mrs. Fortier is certainly pleased.”

David Fortier died in June of 2008, just two days before his sixtieth birthday. He had been diagnosed with mesothelioma in October, 2006. Two months later, the lawsuit against Allis-Chalmers was filed.

The Texas-headquartered company, at one time among the world’s largest manufacturers of farm and other heavy equipment, now makes mostly products used in oil fields. A spokesperson for the company has said that it will appeal this decision.