Bloomington, IL—The widows of three men killed by the asbestos cancer mesothelioma have been awarded damages in the amount of $5.5 million.
The men, Merlon Dukes, Bob Blessing and John Watkins, all worked at Union Asbestos & Rubber Co., which was later called UNARCO Industries, Inc., during the 1950s and 1960s. In that time, the complaint alleged, they were extensively and repeatedly exposed to the carcinogenic material asbestos. The company, found the jury, conspired with its parent companies and others to conceal from employees and customers the hazardous nature of the asbestos products.
Asbestos was once widely used throughout the construction industry, as well as in many other industrial, commercial and household capacities. Prized for its heatproof, fireproof, durable and lightweight nature, and its ability to mix with other substances such as plastic, metals and cement, asbestos has nevertheless been linked to a number of serious illnesses. Perhaps the most deadly of these is the cancer that strikes the membranous lining of the chest cavity and outer covering of the lungs, called the mesothelium. Mesothelioma, as the cancer is known, is almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure at some time in the past, although the disease can take up to 50 years to begin showing symptoms. Sadly, by the time it is correctly diagnosed, it has usually progressed to such a degree that it is inoperable and resistant to other forms of treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation. Most mesothelioma patients die within two years of diagnosis.
The case of the three UNARCO employees was brought by Wylder Corwin Kelly LLP of Bloomington, on behalf of the men’s widows, Doris Dukes, Judy Blessing and Ruth Watkins. The trial lasted two and a half weeks, and the jury deliberated for only four and a half hours before issuing their verdict in favor of the women.