New Orleans Mesothelioma Trial Delayed Due to Super Bowl, “Saintsmania”

A family that has waited since 2005 to get their day in court will have to wait a little longer, a New Orleans judge recently ruled.

The case is Dano Paul Becnel v. Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Inc., and it concerns a woman who contracted mesothelioma through secondhand exposure to the mineral asbestos. Diane Rome Becnel was repeatedly exposed to asbestos particulate that was brought home by her father, Victorin Rome, who worked for over three decades at the Avondale Shipyard, now known as Northrup Grumman Ship Systems. The lawsuit was initially filed by Rome Becnel’s widower, who later died in a motorcycle accident, and has been maintained by relatives. It alleges that the company should be held liable for exposing the entire Rome family to “dangerously high levels of asbestos.”

A jury trial had been scheduled for February 1, but Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris ordered its delay, since the New Orleans Saints football team would be playing in the 2010 Super Bowl.

“Many prospective jurors for the parish of Orleans, several attorneys involved in this litigation and court personnel plan on traveling to…the Super Bowl in Miami, Florida,” wrote the judge, a 17-year veteran of the Civil District Court. The ruling was made independent of any hearing or motion.

The new date for the trial, which is expected to last approximately 10-14 days, has been set for February 9—just one week before the city’s celebration of Mardi Gras.

Mesothelioma is a particularly fatal form of cancer which only manifests itself 30 to 50 years after the asbestos contact began. Targeting the lining of the lungs or other organs, it usually claims the lives of its victims within two years of diagnosis. Mesothelioma is considered incurable, and the treatments for it are generally limited or ineffectual.

Asbestos-related cases comprise one of the largest tort issues in American history, dating back to the early 20th Century.