Miami—Last week a Florida appeals court overturned a verdict of over $24 million in an asbestos liability case. The case will now go back to trial, on order of a panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal. Dr. Stephen Guilder, who contracted peritoneal mesothelioma after working with asbestos-containing brake pads on his stepfather’s farm when he was a teenager, died in September 2009 at the young age of 52. Guilder and his family were awarded the verdict, which included a $10.4 million loss of consortium award for Guilder’s children, by a Miami-Dade County jury in 2008. Honeywell, the maker of the brake pads which had initially been found negligent in selling them, made several post-trial motions, including a motion for a new trial, a motion to alter or amend the judgment, and for collateral source setoff.
Although all post-trial motions were denied by Miami-Dade County Judge Richard Fede, Honeywell ventually took their case to the 3rd District Court of Appeal. That court found that Guilder’s children were not entitled to the loss of consortium award because the law only applies to negligent acts which took place after October 1, 1988; Guilder’s last known exposure to asbestos occurred in 1982. Guilder, who was a surgeon, lived in Weston, Florida. Peritoneal mesothelioma is an extremely rare form of cancer, which affects the lining of the abdominal cavity. Its only known cause is asbestos exposure – when asbestos particulate is disturbed, it can be breathed in, where it lodges into the body’s soft tissues and, eventually, can lead to fatal diseases such as peritoneal mesothelioma. There is currently no cure for the fatal cancer, and patients are usually given only two years or fewer to live after their diagnosis. Approximately 3,000 people are newly diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the United States.