A jury in the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida handed down a hefty $17 million in compensation for asbestos-related disease after a trial against construction products distributor and manufacturer Georgia-Pacific. The plaintiff was a former painting supervisor named Roy Taylor who worked on a project in Saudi Arabia in the late ‘70s. While there, he was responsible for sanding down wall surfaces to prepare for painting.
Much of the sanding work required going over a Georgia-Pacific joint compound product, which was known by the company to contain significant amounts of asbestos. The subsequent white dust would cover Taylor’s uniform, creating a vector for long-term exposure to the asbestos chemicals.
Taylor was diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer some 40 years later. During trial, his physician testified that Taylor had as little as a year to live because of the aggressive nature of his disease.
The total jury award included $13 million in compensation for asbestos-related disease to Taylor as well as $4 million to his wife Suzanne as damages for emotional suffering and future loss of companionship.
Two Defendants Become One in Battle of Compensation for Asbestos-Related Disease
Initially in the trial, Union Carbide — the manufacturer of the asbestos derivatives Georgia-Pacific used in its product — was considered a co-defendant. However, the jury cleared Union Carbide of all liability, likely during deliberations.
Taylor’s head attorney was unsurprised at Union Carbide’s clearing from potential liability. “If [Georgia-Pacific] didn’t buy it from Union Carbide, they would have bought it from someone else,” he asserted.
A sense that Georgia-Pacific had willingly and maliciously exposed Taylor to the dangers of the product during his duties permeated the plaintiff’s central argument. The attorney even displayed a 1974 brochure from Georgia-Pacific, advertising the amount of asbestos used in their joint compound product.
Union Carbide declined to comment to the Courtroom View Network (CVN) reporter covering the trial. Georgia-Pacific spokeswoman Karen Cole released a statement to the media outlet saying that while they sympathize with the suffering the Taylor family endured, the verdict against them was highly disappointing. “We believe the evidence in the trial established that Mr. Taylor was not exposed to Georgia-Pacific’s product and that our product did not play a role in his disease,” she said.
However, the plaintiff’s attorney was not buying this argument. “I think there was overwhelming evidence of the exposure in Saudi Arabia,” he said, denying the defense’s conjecture that Taylor could have been exposed by any number of products after his Saudi Arabia project had completed.
Predicted Low Risk of Appeal
While CVN reports that a sizable portion of trials resulting in compensation for asbestos-related disease usually end in a subsequent appeal, the plaintiff’s attorney felt that this would not be the case. Both sides presented their arguments “pretty much by the book,” he said, concluding that they “don’t really have much to appeal.”
While Mr. Taylor’s condition is not predicted to recover, the compensation for asbestos-related disease can help pay back the expense of medical treatment along with damages for the pain and suffering he and his wife have endured.
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