October 11, 2016, PLLR E-Newsletter
Jury holds John Crane accountable for mill worker’s fatal mesothelioma
Suit alleged that the company failed to test its products to determine whether they were safe and failed to warn of their asbestos dangers. The parties ultimately settled for a confidential amount. Adams v. John Crane, Inc.
From 1968 to 1978, Perry Adams worked as a machinist at a paper pulp mill. The job entailed repairing and maintaining asbestos gaskets and packing in pumps and valves. In 1978, Adams became a supervisor, and his exposure continued as he supervised a crew of machinists doing the same kind of work. His exposure diminished by the mid-1980s, after gaskets starting becoming asbestos-free and controls were enforced on the job site.
In 2010, at age 74, Adams was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Doctors removed 14 liters of fluid from his lungs, and he underwent various forms of chemotherapy. He died of the disease in 2012, at age 76, survived by his wife, four adult sons, and a granddaughter.
Before his death, Adams sued John Crane, which manufactured asbestos packing and rebranded and distributed asbestos gasketing material. The plaintiff alleged that the company negligently failed to test its products to determine whether they were safe and failed to warn of their asbestos dangers. The plaintiff charged that Crane relied on journal articles written by a paid consulting firm it had hired to create “doubt science”— industry-funded science designed to generate doubt about the proven health hazards of asbestos.
The lawsuit also named various other manufacturers of asbestos gaskets and packing, pumps and valves that required asbestos gaskets and packing as essential components, and asbestos-containing insulation.
After Adams died, his wife and estate were substituted as plaintiffs. Several defendants—including another gasket and packing supplier and three pump manufacturers—settled before trial for confidential amounts.
The case went to trial in 2013, and two more defendants settled for confidential amounts. The jury found that John Crane was liable, but jurors were unable to agree on awarding damages, leading to a mistrial.
During the second trial, the plaintiffs presented evidence that during the same time frame Adams was working with its products, John Crane published that the blue, crocidolite asbestos Adams was using was a human carcinogen.
Plaintiff counsel stacked up 14 liter-bottles of water to demonstrate for the jury how much fluid was removed from Adams’s lungs.
John Crane denied that Adams was exposed to asbestos from its products and argued that, even if he had been, any exposure was not significant enough to have caused his mesothelioma. The defense argued that other products, including asbestos insulation at the plant, were responsible for Adams’s disease.
The jury found that John Crane was 40.5 percent at fault, allocating the remaining liability evenly among seven other entities on the verdict form, including four previously settling defendants and three companies not sued because of bankruptcy. The jury then awarded about $4.99 million, including about $2.7 million for the value of Adams’s life, $1.75 million for his predeath pain and suffering; and about $544,600 for medical and funeral expenses.
The parties subsequently settled for a confidential amount.
Citation: Adams v. John Crane Inc., No. STCV1003924 (Ga. St. Ct. Chatham Cnty. June 13, 2016).
Plaintiff counsel: AAJ member Robert C. Buck, Atlanta; and AAJ members Gary M. DiMuzio and Erin E. Jewell, both of Newport News, Va.
Plaintiff experts: Jerrold Abraham, pathology, Syracuse, N.Y.; Jerry Lauderdale, industrial hygiene, Austin, Texas; William Longo, electron microscopy/materials science, Norcross, Ga.; and David Rosner, asbestos industry history/state-of-the-art, New York City.
Defense expert: Charles Blake, industrial hygiene, Kennesaw, Ga.