Though malignant mesothelioma is most frequently diagnosed in people who have been exposed to asbestos in with blue collar jobs such as factory work, construction work, boiler repairmen, electricians and plumbers, the truth is that exposure to asbestos in any setting poses a very real danger. This became painfully clear during a two-week trial in Miami, Florida that pitted a 71-year-old former laboratory technician against the company that provided his biotech employer with the biopharmaceutical equipment that he needed to do his job separating plasma from blood. Charles E. Thornton filed a products liability lawsuit against various defendants who had provided equipment to Nabi Pharmaceuticals between 1976 and 2010, but by the time the claim came to trial, only GEA Mechanical was left as a defendant. This week the jury awarded Thornton and his wife of nearly forty years over $70 million in damages.
Asbestos exposure came from maintaining laboratory equipment
Thornton was first diagnosed with the rare asbestos-related disease in 2016, and is unaware of having been exposed to asbestos from any other source than the equipment he worked with. As part of his job responsibilities, he was tasked with maintaining that equipment, and in doing so he was exposed to asbestos that he was unaware was there and for which the company had provided no warning. The mesothelioma lawsuit charged GEA Mechanical with negligence and strict liability, indicating that they either knew or should have known about the dangers that exposure to asbestos in their products represented, and that they had a responsibility to place appropriate cautions on the equipment or its instructions.
Jury moved by testimony about the suffering caused by mesothelioma
In defending itself against the product liability accusations, GEA Mechanical argued that Thornton’s malignant mesothelioma could not have been caused by exposure to their equipment because such a small quantity of the fiber would have been released as he was maintaining it. To counter this assertion, Thornton’s attorneys presented expert witness testimony about the damage that asbestos can do, as well as the misery that mesothelioma imposes on those diagnosed with it. This testimony had a significant impact on the jury, which awarded $102,000 to compensate for past medical expenses, $50 million to Thornton himself for his pain and suffering, and another $20 million to his 70-year-old wife Constance for her inevitable loss of her husband’s financial support and companionship.
Asbestos causes malignant mesothelioma no matter where its source. The illness can take hold after exposure to small concentrations of the carcinogenic mineral or large quantities. If you have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and need assistance in identifying where you were exposed or any other information, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.