On December 18, 2013, after an 11-day trial, a jury in Ohio awarded a 40-year-old man and his wife a record $27.5 million for the man’s mesothelioma, a rare and often fatal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. The jury awarded the man $515,000 in economic damages, $12 million in noneconomic damages, and $15 million to the man’s 37-year-old wife for her loss of consortium.
The jury’s award was the largest mesothelioma jury verdict in Ohio, far exceeding the previous record in the amount of $6.4 million, which was reversed on appeal.
The jury heard testimony that the man and his wife had attended high school and college together, where they both obtained Masters degrees. They have a 6-year-old daughter.
The man’s treatment for his mesothelioma has included four surgeries. His right lung had to be removed and the cancer is likely to spread at some time in the future to his left lung, which will likely lead to his death. However, at the present time, the man continues to teach English classes full-time at a local community college, where he has taught since 2001, and he plays the drums in a popular Cleveland rock band.
The man was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2012, allegedly acquired by his second-hand exposure to asbestos on the clothing that his father wore to work. The man’s father had worked at Easton Airflex brake company for 31 years before he died at the age of 52 from lung cancer in 1994. Dust on his father’s clothing that he wore home from work likely contained asbestos, which the man breathed in over the years while living in the same household.
The asbestos brakes were manufactured by the former National Friction Products Corporation, which was succeeded by the Kelsey-Hayes Company. The man and his wife sued by the Kelsey-Hayes Company, which was the only remaining defendant at the time of the December 18, 2013 verdict. The jury apportioned its verdict, finding that the Kelsey-Hayes Company was 60% liable because its brake products were defective and caused the man’s mesothelioma, and Eaton Airflex was 40% liable, which was immune from liability under Ohio law. Nonetheless, the Kelsey-Hayes Company will be responsible to pay the full amount of the jury’s award, from which it will likely appeal.
What Is Mesothelioma?
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, malignant mesothelioma is an uncommon cancerous tumor of the lining of the lung and chest cavity (pleura) or lining of the abdomen (peritoneum) that is typically due to long-term asbestos exposure. The biggest risk factor for mesothelioma is long-term exposure to asbestos (a fire-resistant material) that was once commonly found in insulation, ceiling and roofing vinyls, cement, and automotive brake materials. Although many asbestos workers smoked, experts do not believe smoking itself is a cause of mesothelioma.
Malignant mesothelioma affects men more often than women. The average age at diagnosis is 60. Most appear to develop the condition about 30 some years after being in contact with the asbestos.
There is usually no cure, unless the disease is found extremely early and the tumor can be completely removed with surgery. But most often the disease is too far advanced at the time of diagnosis and surgery is usually not an option. Chemotherapy or radiation may be used to reduce symptoms but there is no cure. Pain relief, oxygen, and other supportive treatments may help relieve symptoms. Left untreated, the average malignant mesothelioma patient survives 9 months.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should promptly contact a local mesothelioma attorney who may explain to you your rights and responsibilities in seeking compensation and who may assist you with your mesothelioma claim.
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