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Family of Helicopter Engineer Awarded $8.8 Million in Asbestos Exposure Case

A southwest jury has awarded $8.8 million to the family of a former helicopter engineer who died of complications from mesothelioma. Asbestos is the only known cause of this deadly cancer that forms in the lining of the lungs, abdomen and even the heart.

After retiring from a southwestern aerospace company where he worked as an engineer for 38 years, the former employee was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He died in 2013 at the age of 74. Before his death, the retired engineer and his family filed suit against the aerospace company, claiming that exposure to asbestos occurred while he was testing components used to build helicopters for the Vietnam War. According to the suit, the former employee was often exposed to asbestos amounts that were 200 times greater than the amounts permitted by government safety standards.

During the time the engineer worked for the aerospace company, a company-based respiratory protection policy was not in place. As a result, asbestos air concentrations were allowed to reach such high levels, that the engineer often found himself engulfed in asbestos dust. The extent was described as an “ungodly” amount of asbestos exposure.

Based on evidence presented in the trial, it was revealed that the aerospace company knew it was exposing other employees to dangerously high levels of asbestos as early as the mid-1950s. This was at least eight long years before the engineer began working at the plant. Evidence showed that the company knew asbestos exposure could be fatal, but it did not make any changes until the mid-1970s. The changes didn’t amount to much as the company only semi-complied with government safety rules.

On March 27, 2017, after a weeklong trial and five hours of deliberations, jurors returned a unanimous verdict finding that there was "clear and convincing evidence" that the aerospace company was "grossly negligent" in exposing its former employee to asbestos. Of the $8.8 million award, the family received $7.8 million in punitive damages. Fifty-five percent of the punitive damages went to the retired engineer’s wife and 15% went to each of his three children.

 

Sources

"Texas Jury Awards $7.8M In Punitive Asbestos Damages Against Employer." Lexis Legal News. LexisNexis, 27 Apr. 2017. Web. 13 June 2017.