The family of a former mechanical engineer at an aerospace firm has been awarded $8.8 million by a southwest jury in an asbestos exposure case that took just one week and five hours to decide. The engineer, who was exposed to asbestos while working at the firm, died of complications from mesothelioma in 2013. He was 74 years old.
Asbestos is the only known cause of this aggressive cancer that forms in the lining of the lungs, abdomen and even the heart.
After retiring from the southwestern aerospace company where he worked as a mechanical engineer for 38 years, the former employee was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Before his death, the engineer and his family filed suit against the aerospace company, claiming that exposure to asbestos occurred while he was testing components used to build helicopters for the Vietnam War. According to the suit, the former employee was often exposed to asbestos amounts that were 200 times greater than the amounts permitted by government safety standards.
A company-based respiratory protection policy was not in place during the time the engineer worked for the company. As such, asbestos air concentrations were allowed to reach such extreme levels, that the engineer often found himself surrounded by asbestos dust. The degree was described as an “ungodly” amount of asbestos exposure.
During the trial, it was revealed that the aerospace company knew it was exposing other employees to perilously high levels of asbestos as early as the mid-1950s. This was eight years before the engineer began working at the plant. Evidence showed that the company knew asbestos exposure could be fatal, but it did not make any changes until the mid-1970s. The changes amounted to only semi-compliance with government safety rules.
On March 27, 2017, jurors returned a unanimous verdict finding that there was "clear and convincing evidence" that the aerospace company was "grossly negligent" in exposing its former employee to asbestos.
"Texas Jury Awards $7.8M In Punitive Asbestos Damages Against Employer." Lexis Legal News. LexisNexis, 27 Apr. 2017. Web. 13 June 2017.