The 40-year-old English professor is not your typical mesothelioma plaintiff.
He’s relatively young. He is married to his high school sweetheart, has a Master’s degree and a 6-year-old daughter. He teaches at an Ohio community college and on weekends, plays drums in a popular local band.
He’s also dying of mesothelioma, a terminal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. A Cuyahoga County jury recently awarded him and his family a $27.5 million verdict against an asbestos defendant deemed responsible for his prognosis. Our Boston mesothelioma attorneys understand it is the largest ever such verdict handed down in Ohio.
This man defies the picture of mesothelioma patients that many hold: An older, blue collar worker or military man who was diagnosed with the disease after many years working in close proximity with the harmful substance.
The disease typically lies dormant for many decades, which is why most patients are older by the time they are diagnosed. However in this case, the plaintiff’s exposure reportedly occurred when he was a child.
According to court testimony, the 40-year-old was diagnosed with this rare form of lung cancer less than two years ago. While he had never been employed in a blue collar industry, his father worked for more than three decades at a brake company called Eaton Airflex. The brake pads that contained asbestos were made by a company that at the time went by the name of National Friction Products. That company later became the Kelsey-Hayes Co., and it’s based in Michigan.
Part of the plaintiff’s father’s job had been to pick up the asbestos dust at work. Every night when he came home from his shift, the father’s clothing would be covered in asbestos dust, to which his son was directly exposed.
The father died in 1994 of lung cancer. He was just 52 and had never smoked.
After the son was diagnosed, he and his wife sued Kelsey-Hayes Co. The trial stretched on for 11 days. In the end, the jury sided with the plaintiff, finding that the brake products produced by the defendant were defective and were 60 percent responsible for the plaintiff’s cancer.
The jury determined that with regard to economic damages, the couple should be awarded $515,000. Non-economic damages totaled $12 million, while the plaintiff’s wife was awarded $15 million for loss of consortium, which refers to the loss of a relationship with her husband and father of her child due to this awful disease.
The judge would later note his surprise over the award amount. Previously, the biggest verdict in an asbestos exposure case in Ohio was about $6.5 million. That verdict was later appealed and the ruling reversed.
While the $27.5 million verdict is encouraging as we look to future asbestos injury cases, we know this isn’t the end of the story. It’s likely the defendant here will appeal as well, though it’s unclear what the outcome will be, or how long the plaintiff will fight on before he succumbs to his illness. Already, he has endured four surgeries. His right lung had to be removed. The cancer is believed to have spread to the other lung.
His days are limited, but his courage and that of his family, it seems, is not.
We fully expect that in the years to come, these “non-traditional” mesothelioma plaintiffs will become more commonplace.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.
Tri-C professor with asbestos-related cancer wins record $27.5 million verdict in Cuyahoga County court, Jan. 23, 2014, By James F. McCarty, The Plain Dealer
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Boston Mesothelioma Compensation: Filing Claim With Bankruptcy Trust, Jan. 24, 2014, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog