Jerry Coogan’s peritoneal mesothelioma was both extremely aggressive and torturous, and he died a painful death just six months after his diagnosis. A Washington state jury hearing the details of his asbestos exposure and subsequent suffering ordered Genuine Parts Company and National Automotive Parts Association to pay his family and estate an eye-popping $81.5 million in damages. When the companies appealed, the state’s Court of Appeals preserved the verdict but ordered a new trial to redetermine damages. This week the state’s Supreme Court overturned the appellate court’s decision, reinstating the verdict and saying that the Court of Appeals had overstepped.
Lower Court “Inappropriately Substituted its Own Judgment” in Mesothelioma Lawsuit
The Supreme Court’s decision marks the end of a more-than-six-year journey for Mr. Coogan’s family, who had to watch the 67-year-old former auto mechanic endure tremendous pain and suffering from his peritoneal mesothelioma. The blamed his illness on decades of exposure to Genuine Parts Company’s asbestos-containing brake pads and other parts. A 12-week jury trial yielded a unanimous verdict for the family, but the defendants appealed the decision.
The asbestos companies’ appeal argued that the damages paid to the mesothelioma victim’s family should be revised because the trial court had excluded a medical expert’s assertion that Coogan had a shortened life expectancy due to his liver cirrhosis. The Court of Appeals found this exclusion of testimony to be an abuse of discretion, but the Supreme Court called the appeals court’s decision an overstep of its limited role that “inappropriately substituted its own judgment for that of the trial court, and most importantly, the jury.”
Supreme Court Says Jury’s Decision in Mesothelioma Case Must Be Trusted
In its review of the case, the Washington state Supreme Court not only excoriated the appeals court’s lack of deference to the trial court’s decisions in the mesothelioma case, but also pointed to substantial evidence supporting both the jury’s decision and the trial court’s rejection of an argument that their decision had been inflamed by passion. The Supreme Court wrote that appellate review should be limited to ensuring fairness and the correct application of the law rather than to overruling juries’ decisions, closing with the comment that “trial by jury is the bedrock of our justice system.”
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and you need information on the options available to you, the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net can help. Contact us today at 1-800-692-8608 for more information.