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From Products Liability Law Daily, April 25, 2016

Asbestos-related death nets family of civilian Navy worker $17M in compensatory/punitive damages

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

An Arizona jury awarded $9 million in compensatory damages to the family of a civilian Navy worker who died from mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos-containing products supplied to the U.S. Navy by various manufacturers. The jury also awarded the family $8 million in punitive damages (Coulbourn v. Air & Liquid Systems Corp., April 22, 2016).

The decedent had been a civilian employee of the U.S. Navy from 1959 until he retired in 1994. Until 1975, he worked in various positions at the Norfolk, Virginia Naval Shipyard both in the machine shop and aboard Navy ships. Part of his duties included repairing and overhauling machinery and equipment such as gaskets, pumps, valves, compressors, and turbines. In 2012, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma located primarily in the right lung. He and his wife filed state court tort action in Arizona against various product manufacturers and suppliers to the U.S. Navy, which was removed to federal court. He died in 2013, and the complaint was amended to include wrongful death claims based on negligence and strict liability, alleging both design defect and failure-to-warn claims. The federal district court denied the defendants’ motions for summary judgment and partial summary judgment on issues of liability and damages [see Products Liability Law Daily’s February 13, 2015 analysis].

Jury’s verdict. The jury’s $9,000,000 award in compensatory damages included $6,000,000 to the worker’s spouse and $1,000,000 to each of the worker’s children. In apportioning fault for the worker’s injuries, the jury assigned 20 percent of the fault to Crane Co., five percent of the fault to The William Powell Co., and one percent of the fault to 30 other manufacturers. The jury also determined that the Navy was 47 percent at fault in contributing to the worker’s injuries.

After apportioning damages among the various defendants, the jury determined that the worker’s family was entitled to punitive damages as to two defendants. It assessed punitive damages in the amount of $5,000,000 against Crane Co., and another $3,000,000 against The William Powell Co.

The case is No. CV 13-08141-PCT-SRB.

Attorneys: Brian Barrow (Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, PC) and Dev Kumar Sethi (Kinerk Beal Schmidt Dyer & Sethi, PC) for Sandra Brown Coulbourn. J. Steven Sparks (Sanders & Parks PC) for Air & Liquid Systems Corp. Kathleen L Beiermeister, (Meagher & Geer PLLP) and Geoffrey Davis (K&L Gates LLP) for Crane Co. Robert Vincent Betette (Foley & Mansfield LLP) and Jason James Boblick (Shorall McGoldrick Brinkmann PC) for William Powell Co.

Companies: Air & Liquid Systems Corp.; Buffalo Pumps Inc. Crane Co.; William Powell Co.

MainStory: TopStory JuryVerdictsNewsStory WarningsNews DamagesNews AsbestosNews ArizonaNews

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