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Second Try for Landmark Asbestosis Lawsuit

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Salem, OHIt's a tale of two asbestosis victims: one, who is hoping to pursue some form of asbestosis compensation, whereas another true victim of asbestosis, who saw his asbestosis lawsuit vacated, will have to go through the rigors of another trial while puffing on oxygen 24/7.

The former is Korean War veteran Jess Burdine, who was recently diagnosed with asbestosis. While the 78-year-old has yet to develop full-blown mesothelioma, asbestosis disease often leads to the incurable condition. Mesothelioma is akin to a death sentence.

According to the News Herald of Port Clinton, Ohio (1/11/12), Burdine served for two years aboard the USS Neosho, a 665-foot vessel used for hauling fuel. Ships are long known for use of asbestos as insulation around pipes, and in other areas of the ship.

Burdine, a young seaman at the time, was in charge of a saltwater evaporator used to generate fresh drinking water for his fellow sailors. The steam pipes, wrapped in asbestos insulation, were required to be cleaned once per month by heating the pipes and knocking away the various seawater corrosives.

Burdine told the News Herald, "you could just see the dust right there in the air."

His subsequent work life beyond the military did not involve any exposure to asbestos, Burdine believes. The Salem Township man, who has half the lung capacity he once enjoyed, traces his asbestosis exposure to his work aboard the Neosho almost 50 years ago.

The time frame, while long, is not unlike the typical incubation period for asbestosis disease. Symptoms can emerge 30 years or more following even minimal exposure to asbestos.

Burdine, who is seeking asbestos compensation through Veterans Affairs, has yet to contact an asbestosis lawyer. He requires oxygen daily, just to survive.

Meanwhile, the relatively young asbestosis victim who was granted the largest single asbestosis award in history last year will have to endure yet another trial. Thomas Brown had been awarded $322 million in a jury decision in 2011. However, the verdict was challenged by defendant Union Carbide following revelations that the parents of the presiding judge had been involved in similar asbestos litigation against Union Carbide—and that one case was still pending.

The defense argued that the conflict, allegedly not disclosed prior to the start of the original trial, resulted in bias on the part of the presiding judge pertaining to the way he conducted the trial and made his instructions to the jury. The defense petitioned the Supreme Court to have the judge removed, and on December 27, a specially appointed judge, William Coleman, issued an order to vacate the verdict and the asbestosis compensation award.

The Associated Press (AP) reported on January 4 that a new trial is slated for April.

Plaintiff Brown will now have to go through what will likely be another lengthy trial in the spring in order to pursue his asbestosis claim. The asbestosis victim was 48 when the original verdict was handed down in May of last year. He requires oxygen 24 hours a day to survive.

Brown claims he acquired asbestos disease from mixing drilling mud manufactured and sold by Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. and Union Carbide Corporation. The plaintiff claims he inhaled asbestos dust while performing the work, which forms the basis for his asbestosis claim.

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