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From Products Liability Law Daily, June 16, 2016

Manufacturer of asbestos product on the hook for its apportioned liability and delay damages

By Kathleen Bianco, J.D.

An attempt by the manufacturer of asbestos-containing products to avoid paying allocated damages to an individual who developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure, based on payments made under settlement agreements, was rejected by a federal district court in Pennsylvania (Rabovsky v. Air & Liquid Systems Corp., June 15, 2016, Alejandro, N.).

Valent Rabovsky (decedent) and his wife, Ann, commenced a civil action in state court against various manufacturers, claiming that Valent Rabovsky, who had worked as a millwright since the 1950's, developed malignant mesothelioma from work-related exposure to asbestos and products containing asbestos, which were produced, manufactured, or sold by various manufacturers. The civil action was removed to federal court on July 1, 2010. In an amended complaint, plaintiffs asserted that Crane Co., individually and as successor-in-interest to Chapman Valve Company, manufactured, produced, sold, and/or supplied Crane Co. valves at decedent's work places. After entering into settlement agreements with various manufacturers, the plaintiffs proceeded to trial against Crane Co.; however, liability assessment of certain other defendants (the "Settling Defendants") was also presented to the jury.

On February 2, 2016, a jury trial was held on the issue of whether Crane Co. was negligent in failing to warn plaintiffs of the danger of exposure to asbestos. The jury found in favor of plaintiffs and awarded $1,085,000 in damages, consisting of $835,000 in compensatory damages for the decedent's estate, and $250,000 for the decedent’s wife’s loss of consortium. The jury apportioned liability amongst Crane Co. and the Settling Defendants, and specifically apportioned 30 percent of the liability to Crane Co. Pending before the court were the parties’ motions to mold the verdict and the plaintiff’s motion for delay damages.

Damages. In its motion to mold the verdict and award, Crane Co. argued that the plaintiffs had been made whole through their settlements with the Settling Defendants. Therefore, the plaintiffs should not have been entitled to further monetary award because the doctrine of joint and several liability did not support recovery of more than one satisfaction for one injury. Alternatively, the plaintiffs requested that a final judgment be issued against Crane with the total verdict amount molded to $325,500, which is 30 percent of the jury’s verdict. The plaintiffs also sought delay damages.

The manufacturer’s argument was rejected pursuant to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court holding which ruled that where a release has been executed, the verdict is reduced only by the allocated proportionate share of the settling tortfeasor. Under this standard, a nonsettling tortfeasor will be held liable, at the least, for his full allocated share of liability.

As to the delay damages, the court determined that the plaintiffs were entitled to such damages as they related to the decedent’s physical injuries and death, but not for the damages awarded for the wife’s loss-of-consortium claim.

Based on the facts in evidence, the court awarded the plaintiffs $377,096.73 in damages; $325,500 for the manufacturer’s apportioned liability; and $51,596.73 in delay damages.

The case is No. 10-3202.

Attorneys: Charles E. Soechting, Jr. (Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett PC) for Ann Rabovsky. John S. Howarth (Wilbraham, Lawler & Buba) for Air & Liquid Systems Corp.

Companies: Crane Co; Air & Liquid Systems Corp.

MainStory: TopStory DamagesNews AsbestosNews PennsylvaniaNews

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