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Verdict in Drilling Mud Trial Vacated, But Plaintiff Still Needs Oxygen 24/7

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Jackson, MSHis drilling mud lawsuit victory may have been overturned on a technicality. However, there is little doubt that plaintiff Troy Lofton has been adversely affected by asbestos drilling mud in some way: during testimony at his trial, the former oil and gas rig worker required constant use of an oxygen bottle, with life-giving oxygen fed through his nose with a tube.

Although not a mud engineer per se, Lofton worked with a drilling mud system nonetheless and was diagnosed with asbestosis soon after experiencing shortness of breath in 1995. He told the trial court he requires help to breathe around the clock.

According to Lawyers Weeky USA (6/8/12), Lofton toiled on various oil and gas rigs over a 19-year career beginning in 1964. His job as a floorhand put him in contact with Flosal, a drilling mud additive that contained asbestos. Amongst his tasks was to mix the drilling mud.

A key issue in the asbestos drilling trial was the asbestos content of Flosal, and the time during which it was actively marketed by its manufacturer of the period, Phillips 66 (now Chevron). The product was manufactured from 1963 through 1984, co-inciding with Lofton's work on the rigs, and with the product. The drilling mud problem Lofton claims to have had, is that the composition of drilling mud in this case was 85 to 95 percent asbestos.

Upon the conclusion of a two week trial, a jury awarded Lofton $15.2 million for his pain, suffering and medical costs. That was in April. However the verdict was appealed by the defendant based on an error allegedly committed during the original trial.

According to the report, the plaintiff's legal team had used information based on well reports and various other statistical data while undertaking a cross-examination of an expert witness for the defense. The defense argued the data should not have been used during the cross-examination and the data read into the court record as evidence, given the statistical data appeared to be a representation only and did not have a direct bearing on the plaintiff's activities.

To wit, the historical data used involved wells and rigs Lofton had not actually worked on. The defense also claimed the asbestos exposure claimed to have been suffered by the plaintiff, through the articulation of the historical data during cross-examination, was grossly overstated.

On June 7, the Mississippi Supreme Court vacated the asbestos drilling mud verdict and ordered a new trial.

Lofton, whose age was not disclosed, would have had no idea the drilling mud system at which he toiled would one day leave him dependant on breathing apparatus for the rest of his life. The plaintiff, who will have to struggle through yet another trial, has been suffering from shortness of breath for 17 years, allegedly due to drilling mud chemicals. The case is Phillips 66 v. Lofton No. 2010-CA-01465-SCT.

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