Toxic Tort Monitor: Florida Jury Awards $70M In Mesothelioma Verdict

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[co-author: Maysa Daoud]

A former laboratory technician at a biopharmaceutical company and his wife were awarded close to $70 million by a Florida state jury over claims he developed mesothelioma resulting from exposure to asbestos-containing products at work. At the end of the two-week trial, the jury found against GEA Mechanical Equipment (“GEA”), an equipment company, for its negligence in distributing the alleged asbestos-containing products and failing to adequately warn plaintiff of the related health hazards.

In their complaint, plaintiffs Charles and Constance Thornton argued that Charles Thornton, age 68, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in September of 2016 as a result of exposure to the asbestos-containing products he encountered when performing maintenance work on biopharmaceutical equipment while working at a number of facilities over his 40-year career, including NABI Biopharmaceuticals. The plaintiffs tied plaintiff’s mesothelioma to his work at NABI replacing GEA’s allegedly asbestos-containing brakes and clutches on centrifuges.

As the sole defendant at the time of trial, GEA was sued for its role as a successor to Centrico, Inc., which allegedly sold three Westfalia Seperator brand centrifuges to plaintiff’s employer. GEA denied knowing the machines it sold to NABI in the late-1970s and early-1980s included asbestos-containing components. The company also denied that it sold asbestos-containing replacement brakes and clutches to NABI, and if it did, the company denied plaintiff’s use of those products caused his mesothelioma.

The jury concluded that GEA’s negligence was a legal cause of injury and damage to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs were awarded $102,000.00 for past medical expenses and $50 million for pain and suffering, disability, physical impairment, mental anguish, inconvenience, and loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, which included $30 million in past damages and $20 million for future damages. Plaintiff’s wife was also awarded a total of $20 million for loss of consortium claims, including $5 million for past damages and $15 million for future damages. The verdict of $70 million awarded to plaintiffs is one of South Florida’s largest asbestos-related verdicts.

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