When mesothelioma victim Kevin Burns filed a personal injury case against boiler company Burnham LLC, he included punitive damages in his claim. The company responded by filing a motion for partial summary judgment to dismiss that portion of the complaint, but this week the Supreme Court of New York denied their request, noting that the company had failed to meet the burden of proof.
Punitive Damages Claim Allows Juries to Punish Asbestos Companies in Mesothelioma Lawsuits
In the 20th century, many manufacturers incorporated asbestos in their products despite knowing that exposure to its fibers could cause malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. In some cases, mesothelioma victims who file personal injury cases against these companies seek both compensation for the harm they’ve suffered and punitive damages, which are meant specifically to punish defendants for their knowing failure to warn and disregard of the dangers of their product.
When Mr. Burns included punitive damages in his mesothelioma claim, the company asked the court to remove that portion of his lawsuit. They argued that he had failed to establish that their conduct had risen to the level of egregious and morally culpable conduct, and supported that argument with a study arguing that the plaintiff’s exposure to asbestos was below the OSHA standard.
Judge Explains Standard for Dismissing Punitive Damages Claim in Mesothelioma Claims
In response to the company’s motion, Justice Adam Silvera said that a punitive damages claim was warranted in a mesothelioma case where “the actor has intentionally done an act of an unreasonable character in disregard of a known or obvious risk that was so great as to make it highly probable that harm would follow and has done so with conscious indifference to the outcome.” He went on to say that the study that the company presented was insufficient to disprove this, particularly because it did not contain relevant information regarding the products that were named in Mr. Burns’ lawsuit.
Additionally, the judge pointed to direct testimony by Burnham’s corporate representative, who had confirmed that “Burnham never… put a warning regarding hazards of asbestos on any of its boilers.” Based on this, the judge ruled that there were questions of fact that a jury needed to hear to determine whether punitive damages were appropriate.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, it’s important to work with professionals who can guide you through your upcoming challenges. To learn how the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net can help, contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.FREE Mesothelioma Packet