Baltimore, MD—A University of Maryland nursing professor who contracted the asbestos cancer mesothelioma from her grandfather has been awarded more than $20 million in damages.
A Baltimore City Circuit Court jury made the award on Friday in the case of Jocelyn Farrar, 57, after a two-week trial. Farrar had been exposed to the carcinogenic material asbestos while washing the clothes of her grandfather, an insulation worker, when she was a teenager in the 1960s. Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma, a rare cancer which affects the lining of the chest and abdominal cavities, and which surrounds the lungs and other internal organs. Unfortunately, this cancer may lay latent within the body for years or even decades before being properly diagnosed. Most mesothelioma patients are given a life expectancy of only 18 months, on average, after their diagnosis with the disease.
Although most cases of asbestos exposure occur in workers who are directly exposed to the toxin, there are an increasing number of diagnoses being made in people who had only secondhand exposure to the asbestos, as in Farrar’s case. Because the material can cling to fibers and therefore be transferred from one location to another on workers’ clothes or hair, it’s possible to contract mesothelioma even without being directly exposed to the carcinogen. Farrar’s grandfather, John Hentgen, worked installing insulation made by Georgia Pacific Corp. at the Forrestal Building in Washington, from December 1968 until the next spring. Georgia Pacific was the defendant in the case, and has been ordered to pay $20,272,000 in damages — $18.5 in non-economic damages; $1.6 million for lost earnings and earning capacity; $97,000 for past medical expenses and $75,000 for future medical expenses. Farrar was diagnosed with the terminal cancer in June 2008. She has had surgery to remove her right lung and, according to her attorney, the doctors feel her prognosis is fairly good.