Asbestos exposure caused workers' mesothelioma

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Case in Point

May 14, 2013

Asbestos exposure caused workers' mesothelioma 

The plaintiffs alleged that various companies that manufactured the asbestos-containing products to which the workers were exposed failed to warn of the dangers of chrysotile asbestos in their products. Amato v. Bell & Gossett; Vinciguerra v. Bayer Cropscience Inc.

Thomas Amato worked at a shipyard as a boilermaker’s apprentice from 1972 to 1980. During that time, he worked with and around various asbestos-containing products, including gaskets and packing materials manufactured by Crane Co. and J.A. Sexauer. In 2011, at age 59, Amato was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He underwent a radical pleurectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment. His prognosis is poor.

Frank Vinciguerra was a sheet metal worker for DuPont for about 35 years, beginning in the early 1950s. In the course of his work, he handled asbestos-containing gaskets manufactured by Crane Co. and several other companies. He also worked with asbestos-containing sealant, flexible connectors, and other products. In 2010, Vinciguerra was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment but died several months later, at age 78. He is survived by his wife and five adult children.

Before his death, Vinciguerra and his wife sued various companies, including Crane Co., other gasket and packing manufacturers, and companies that manufactured the asbestos-containing sealant and flexible connectors. Amato and his wife sued Crane Co., J.A. Sexauer, and other companies that manufactured the asbestos-containing products to which Amato was exposed. The plaintiffs in both lawsuits alleged that the defendants failed to warn of the dangers of chrysotile asbestos in their products.

After Vinciguerra died, his estate, represented by his wife, was substituted as a plaintiff.

A number of defendants settled for confidential amounts or were otherwise dismissed before trial. The Amato plaintiffs proceeded to trial against Crane Co. and J.A. Sexauer, and the Vinciguerra plaintiffs proceeded against Crane Co. The cases were consolidated for trial, with certain settling defendants remaining on the verdict form.

At trial, an expert in both cases testified that Crane gaskets and J.A. Sexauer gaskets and packing materials released asbestos fibers containing levels of chrysotile asbestos that were thousands of times more concentrated than levels naturally found in the environment.

The defendants argued, among other things, that the asbestos in their products was encapsulated and therefore was not released in sufficient quantities to have caused either man’s disease.

The jury in the Amato case awarded $2.5 million, allocating fault to Crane Co., J.A. Sexauer, and eight previously settling defendants. Under Pennsylvania law, damages are allocated in equal, pro rata shares. Thus, each defendant is responsible for 10 percent of the total verdict.

The jury in the Vinciguerra case awarded $2.3 million, allocating fault to Crane Co. and four previously settling defendants, including two other gasket manufacturers, a sealant manufacturer, and a flexible connector manufacturer. Each defendant is responsible for 20 percent of the award.

Citation: Amato v. Bell & Gossett, Aug. Term 2011, No. 3373 (Pa., Phila. Co. Com. Pleas Feb. 25, 2013); Vinciguerra v. Bayer Cropscience Inc., Sept. Term 2010, No. 2682 (Pa., Phila. Co. Com. Pleas Feb. 25, 2013).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ members Benjamin P. Shein and Bethann P. Schaffzin, both of Philadelphia; and AAJ member Rick I. Nemeroff, Dallas.

Plaintiff experts: William Longo, materials science, Atlanta; Richard Lemen, occupational medicine, Duluth, Ga.; Steven Markowitz, occupational medicine, New York City; and Keith Cengel, radiation oncology, and Joseph Friedberg, thoracic surgery, both of Philadelphia.

Defense experts: Charles Blake, industrial hygiene, Kennesaw, Ga.; Robert Sawyer, epidemiology, Milford, Conn.; and David Sargent, naval operations, Annapolis, Md.


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