August 9, 2016, PLLR E-Newsletter | The American Association For Justice

August 9, 2016, PLLR E-Newsletter

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Asbestos in brake products contributed to man’s mesothelioma

Warning sign reads: danger asbestos

The plaintiff alleged that various manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos-containing products failed to warn of their products’ asbestos dangers. Conda v. 3M Co.
 

Ronald Conda worked for Northern States Power (NSP) for nearly 30 years, from 1967 to 1996. As an ironworker and rigger, Conda worked with boilers, turbines, pumps, and other equipment containing asbestos components and insulation. A lifetime car enthusiast, Conda also spent years doing brake work for family members and friends, changing and sanding asbestos brake shoes.

In June 2015, Conda was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He died of the disease about six months later, at age 78, survived by his wife, four adult children, and several grandchildren.

Before his death, Conda sued various manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos-containing products, including boiler manufacturer Foster Wheeler Corp. and Honeywell International, whose subsidiary, Bendix, manufactured automotive brakes. The plaintiff argued, among other things, that the defendants failed to warn of their products’ asbestos dangers.

A number of companies, including Foster Wheeler, settled before or during trial for confidential amounts, and the case proceeded against Honeywell. The plaintiff presented evidence that Bendix was aware that asbestos causes disease; that brake work causes substantial exposures, often in violation of federal law; and that mechanics were largely unaware of exposure risks, but the company chose not to warn them for years.  

In addition to noneconomic damages, the plaintiff sought medical expenses and retirement benefits totaling about $223,600.

Honeywell argued that the chrysotile asbestos contained in its brake products was not capable of causing mesothelioma. 

The jury allocated fault at 10 percent each to Honeywell and Foster Wheeler and 80 percent to NSP, which was not a defendant. The jury then awarded about $3.72 million. After allocation of fault, Honeywell is responsible for about $372,400.

Citation: Conda v. 3M Co., No. 62-CV-15-4651 (Minn. Dist. Ct. Ramsey Cnty. June 8, 2016). 

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ members Jessica M. Dean and Ben Braly, both of Dallas; and Jennifer M. McKibben, Minneapolis.

Plaintiff experts: Arnold Brody, cell biology, Raleigh, N.C.; and Eugene Mark, pathology, and Ed Holstein, occupational medicine, both of Boston.

Defense experts: Charles Blake, industrial hygiene, Kennesaw, Ga.; Michael Graham, pathology, St. Louis; and David Garabrant, epidemiology, Chicago.