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$322MM Asbestos Lawsuit Verdict Good News for Asbestos Drilling Mud Workers

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Lafayette, LALast June 2012 the largest single plaintiff’s asbestos award of $322 million in US history against Union Carbide and Chevron and Conoco Phillips was retried and a second jury came back with a defense verdict that awarded zero dollars. However, Attorney Ben Stewart sees this asbestos drilling mud lawsuit as “a great victory for drilling rig workers”.

Stewart says that, in essence, the Mississippi state court in the asbestos case (Union Carbide Corp. et al. v. Brown, No. 2006-196) found that the company knowingly exposed their workers to asbestosis rather than slow down drilling. “They chose not to put safety procedures in place or use a less efficient but safer compound in the drilling mud and hoped no one would notice,” says Stewart.

Drilling Mud consultant Eric Guillory, in a phone interview to LawyersandSettlements from the Hercules 350 rig in South Timbalier, would concur with Stewart. He went to mud school in the late 1970s and has been working in the industry ever since. Eric, age 59, has been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but he continues to work as a mud consultant.

“It’s difficult for me to walk up and down the stairs on the rig but I have to keep working to pay for my racehorses,” Eric laughs, followed by a cough. Seriously, Eric says he is still running mud because he doesn’t know how to do anything else.

“In the late 1970's and early 1980's I cut unlimited LCM sacks of Sure Lift, which was 100 percent asbestos. The product was owned by Halliburton & Conoco Oil Company. Back then we had no choice but to work in hazardous asbestos environments ??" these oil rigs in the gulf have no ventilation. They are sealed so that nothing gets thrown into the gulf if anything happens. We didn’t know that the products were pure asbestos and we weren’t even given painters’ masks.”

Eric adds that several of his co-workers have been diagnosed with asbestosis. “Steven Williams, an old friend who went to mud school with me, has asbestos lung disease and he was offered an asbestos settlement of only $10,000, which is ridiculous,” says Eric.

“So many companies are bankrupt, but Halliburton and ConocoPhillips has billions of dollars set aside ---they know that a flood of lawsuits are coming. I have testified in court for the way Halliburton handled caustic substances. We still don’t know what we are using; they come up with different products every day but now the government is cracking down on them, which is a good thing, finally. We never had any government intervention back then; they just didn’t know. But the asbestos manufacturers knew.”

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