A former brake mechanic’s family has been awarded more than $18.5 million in an asbestos case that took just three weeks to decide. The mechanic, who was exposed to asbestos while performing some 10 to 12 brake jobs a day in shops in Little Rock and North Little Rock from around 1971 to 1983, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in March 2017 and died of the disease December 31, 2017.
By the time he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, the victim and his family had moved to Texas, settling in Midland. Although he had held other jobs in Texas and other places, his greatest exposure was at the brake shops in Little Rock and North Little Rock, so the lawsuit was filed in Arkansas—in 2017.
Following their loved one’s his death, the family continued with the lawsuit, maintaining that the manufacturers of the asbestos brake-shoe linings were liable. This included Honeywell International Inc., which, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, bought Allied Signal years ago—a company that had acquired Bendix, one of the principal manufacturers of brake-shoe linings in the country, in 1984. “When Honeywell bought Allied Signal, it also bought all of the company's liabilities,” reports the Gazette.
Other parties, such as Ford Motor Co., were also named in the suit, as it was believed that they had manufactured some of the cars on which the victim installed the brake shoes.
The verdict was delivered in the courtroom of Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Miller and found that Honeywell was 18.75% liable for damages and “other parties” were 57.5% liable. Two other companies that settled their portions of the case before trial, (Pneumo Abex, L.L.C. and Genuine Parts Company, also known as Napa), each bore 9.375% of the fault. The victim was assigned 5% of the fault and Ford was not held liable.
Jurors awarded $216,000 for the victims' loss of life, $5 million for his pain and suffering and $341,979 for his medical expenses. The victim’s wife was deceased, “but the couple's son and two daughters, all of whom live in Texas, were each awarded $1 million for anguish.” The jury “also leveled $10 million in punitive damages, answering yes to the question, ‘Do you find, by clear and convincing evidence that Honeywell International Inc. knew or should have known that its conduct would naturally and probably result in injury and that it continued such conduct in reckless disregard of the consequences of its action?’”
Attorneys for the family said that Bendix "knew they had a problem" but instead of trying to find a solution, they "turned a blind eye" to it.
If you have been exposed to asbestos, see your doctor right away. He or she can refer you to a specialist who can assess your risk and set up a monitoring plan that could help detect mesothelioma sooner. Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, early detection could lead to better treatment options and outcomes. See your doctor to assess your risk today.
Satter, Linda. “$18.5M awarded over fatal asbestos exposure at central Arkansas brake shop.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc., Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 31 Jan. 2019. Web. 19 Feb. 2019.