In May of 2001, a Mississippi man was awarded $322 million, although not the highest mesothelioma settlement, but for asbestosis making it the highest amount awarded to an individual for asbestos exposure in United States history.
The lawsuit was brought by Mr. Thomas Brown Jr. who was 48 years old on worked on oil fields in Mississippi from the late 1970’s to the mid 1980’s. Mr. Brown started out his work mixing drilling mud that contained asbestos and was used on the drilling machinery used in Mississippi.
Mr. Brown did not have mesothelioma and was actually diagnosed with asbestosis. Asbestosis is a scarring of the lungs caused from asbestos exposure and is typically not malignant. Because Mr. Brown could not read or write the jurors felt the defendants made him an easy target of asbestos exposure.
Mr. Brown successfully argued that defendants such as C.P. Chem and Union Carbide who sold and manufactured the asbestos mud caused Mr. Brown to inhale or ingest the asbestos fibers he was working with and disturbing.
He further alleged the defendants knew of the exposure risk of asbestos to cause deadly diseases such as mesothelioma or lung cancer and failed to warn him of risks associated with exposure to the asbestos product.
He alleged the defendants put innocent workers at risk of asbestos exposure to seek greater profits. The defendant's aggravated the jurors when they told them Mr. Brown did not deserve protection of the laws of Mississippi because he could not read or write and was unable to understand any warnings given to him.
This argument failed with the jury and led to the emotionally charged amount of the jury award meant to punish the defendants for their egregious conduct.