A Pennsylvania jury awarded $17 million in damages to the families of two men diagnosed with mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos in valves and gaskets.
The combined damage awards were announced this week in Philadelphia, but confidential settlements were reached before individual judgments were returned apportioning the damages among the various sources of asbestos exposure.
In the mesothelioma lawsuit, the families alleged that the men developed the rare form of cancer as a result of valves and gaskets manufactured by Crane Co. and Garlock Sealing Technologies. According to a press release issued by the asbestos attorneys representing the families, Crane Co. settled before the damage award was returned and Garlock subsequently settled while the jury was hearing evidence about their individual liability for the award.
Mesothelioma is a rare and often fatal form of cancer that is found in the lining of the chest and lungs. The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure, and it is often not diagnosed until decades after exposure. As a result of the long latency period, the cancer is very advanced when it is diagnosed and life expectancy with the disease is limited.
Asbestos was widely used in a variety of manufacturing and construction applications throughout the last century, with use peaking in 1973. Most uses of asbestos were banned in the mid-1980s. Despite the ban, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the number of mesothelioma deaths continues to rise each year due to the latency period, with the number expected to peak in 2010.
Although Garlock initially maintained that it could not be proven that their gaskets caused mesothelioma for the two men, the company settled after the court permitted the jury to see documents where Garlock admitted that their gaskets could cause mesothelioma, according to a press release issued by Baron & Budd, P.C. The attorneys indicate that it was shown that the gaskets contained 75 to 90% asbestos.
Asbestos lawsuits are the longest running mass tort in U.S. history, with the first asbestos exposure case filed in 1929. Over 600,000 people have filed lawsuits against 6,000 defendants after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis or other asbestos-related diseases.