Arizona Man Awarded $17 Million in Asbestos, Mesothelioma Lawsuit
A federal jury in Phoenix recently awarded $17 million in damages to the family of George Coulbourn, a retired civilian employee of the U.S. Navy. George died from mesothelioma, the fatal asbestos disease, after working for about seven years removing asbestos-containing gaskets and packing from valves manufactured in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia. He died in 2012 at the age of 73, less than a year after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma – a terminal cancer found in the lining of his lungs.
According to PR Newswire, the verdict consisted of $9 million in compensatory damages with 20 percent responsibility for George’s injuries and death against Connecticut-based industrial product manufacturer Crane Co. and 5 percent against Cincinnati-based valve manufacturer William Powell Co. Jurors determined that the remaining 75 percent of liability fell on the U.S. Navy and other companies. The verdict also included $5 million in punitive damages against Crane Co. and $3 million against William Powell Co.
The prosecution showed that these companies knew about the hazards of asbestos products for decades, and they’ve known that asbestos could kill since the 1930s, but they never warned George Coulbourn of the potential risks. Because of this, the jury held these companies accountable.
The truth is asbestos was a popular component in commercial products from the early 1900s until the 1970s (when health hazards became widely recognized), with its peak use being between the 1940s and 1970s. According to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (AZDEQ), during World War II, enormous quantities of asbestos were used in shipbuilding and other industries, and continued following the war in buildings for fireproofing, thermal and acoustical insulation, condensation control and decoration. It’s estimated that an astounding 30 million tons of asbestos have been used in the construction and manufacturing industries since the early 1900s. Because of this, asbestos has been found in every type of building – hospitals, churches, schools, homes – you name it. Do a simple search online and you’ll see plenty of examples.
It wasn’t until July 12, 1989 that the U.S. EPA issued a final rule banning some, but not all, asbestos-containing products. These products include: flooring felt, rollboard, and corrugated, commercial or specialty paper. It also may not be used in products that have not historically contained asbestos. This is scary, but the U.S. EPA continues to make moves in the right direction.
For example, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), requires local education agencies to inspect their school buildings for asbestos-containing building material, prepare asbestos management plans and perform asbestos response actions to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards. There are also laws regarding safe drinking water and air quality – free of asbestos. To read more laws and regulations regarding asbestos, click here. To see what asbestos products have NOT been banned, click here.
I f you have received a mesothelioma diagnosis, or lost a loved one from this disease, the expert Arizona asbestos injury lawyers at Knapp & Roberts can help. Simply call 480-991-7677 to set up a free consultation with an experienced lawyer or fill out the form on our website today.
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