When a person loses a loved one to malignant mesothelioma, their grief is exacerbated by the knowledge that the fatal illness was totally preventable — that had asbestos companies operated responsibly and ethically, their loved one would have been protected from exposure to the carcinogenic material that led to the illness. Many choose to pursue legal action against these companies, and though most of these claims settle out of court, others are heard at trial, where decisions can go in their favor or against them. A recent case saw a jury decide against a mesothelioma widow, who appealed their decision based on what she viewed as an unfair jury instruction. In reviewing her case, the Court of Appeals of Washington agreed and as a result there will be an entirely new trial.
Forty Years of Asbestos Exposure Blamed for Asbestos-Related Death
The case revolved around the death of James Clevenger, who died in 2017 after over forty years of asbestos exposure as a boiler technician in the Navy, a maintenance mechanic at a city water department, and a pipefitter. His widow filed suit against numerous companies and only one — John Crane Inc. — remained by the end of the trial.
The case was confusing, in part because Mr. Clevenger’s diagnosis was not clear as to whether it was mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, and in part because he was a 30-year-smoker. Though both sides agreed that his death had been caused by asbestos, John Crane’s argument at trial was that the widow’s claim was specific to mesothelioma, and that since there was no way of knowing whether he had died of that disease or another asbestos-related disease, that the company had to be found innocent. The jury agreed and the widow appealed, saying that the instructions were misleading.
Court Determines that Jury Instructions Regarding Mesothelioma Misled Jury
In reviewing the instructions that were given to the jury, the court found enough of an issue that they chose to “vacate the judgment and remand for a new trial,” writing, “we question whether the factors are appropriate for a jury instruction listing what the jury ‘should’ consider to determine proximate cause.” Mrs. Clevenger will be able to have the case heard by a jury again, presumably with less confusing instructions being given to the jury by the asbestos company’s attorneys.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, you face many challenges. The Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net are here to help. Contact us today at 1-800-692-8608 to learn more.