When mesothelioma victim Ronald Conda filed a lawsuit against those he believed were responsible for his fatal illness, he included Honeywell International and others for exposure outside of his employment in addition to Northern States Power (NSP), his employer.
After his death, the jury returned with a verdict that attributed 10% of fault to Honeywell, 10% to co-defendant Foster Wheeler and 80% to NSP, and awarded his family almost $4 million in damages.
Honeywell appealed the judgment on several grounds, including the expert witness testimony in the case, the failure to name the U.S. Navy as a defendant, Mr. Conda’s counsel’s misconduct and a state rule regarding allocation of judgment.
Upon hearing Honeywell’s argument, the Court of Appeals of Minnesota denied Honeywell and ordered them to pay the judgment.
Every mesothelioma lawsuit has the potential for raising highly technical legal arguments, and Mr. Conda’s case was no exception.
The judges indicated that in this case, each of the arguments made by Honeywell were invalid. They ruled that the expert testimony that the jury heard was credible and sufficient; that there was insufficient evidence regarding the Navy for it to have been named as a defendant; that the district court had instructed the jury to disregard the improper remarks or arguments made by opposing counsel; and that the company’s interpretation of Minnesota state laws was incorrect, and therefore not appropriate.
One of the most interesting aspects of the court’s decision centered on the comments made by Mr. Conda’s attorney, who told the jury that Honeywell should be punished because mesothelioma “is a horrific way to die” and that Honeywell’s actions had represented “blatant, explicit, known, eyes wide open violation of the law.”
The attorney argued that the jury’s decision regarding liability should be “as calculated and deliberate as the decision of the company’s decision makers over decades.”
Though that type of language is prohibited by Minnesota law and can lead to a reversal if a jury awards excessive damages, the court pointed out that the jury’s verdict indicated that the attorney’s comments had not led to an inappropriate damage amount against Honeywell.
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