In May 2011, a jury awarded Mr. Brown from Mississippi $322 million: Brown claimed he inhaled asbestos dust while mixing drilling mud that was sold by Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. and manufactured by Union Carbide Corp. Brown has been diagnosed with asbestosis and is on oxygen 24/7, according to his lawyer. The lawsuit claimed that CP Chem and Union Carbide continued to market asbestos drilling mud despite knowing the dangers—for many years.
During the Brown trial, court documents showed the drilling mud additives packaging included a federally mandated warning that it contained asbestos fibers and breathing the fibers could cause serious injury. However, Brown couldn't read or write when he started working in the oil fields—he was 16 years old. Brown is now 48.
Monty's background and symptoms are similar to those of Brown. "I started working in the oil fields right after high school; we mixed barite [a heavy additive in oil-well drilling mud] and asbestos for Baroid Industrial Drilling Product, a subsidiary of Halliburton. I was the mud plant operator and I clearly remember that none of us wore masks."
Monty is now 54. A few years ago he started having respiratory problems. Recently he had an injury that required spinal surgery and if not for a CAT Scan and MRI that determined damage to his T6 and T7, Monty wouldn't have known about the spots on his lungs, which were found by the MRI and CAT Scan.
"I have no idea how long these spots would have gone undetected," says Monty, "and even now, nothing has been done about it. It's like the doctors down here in Louisiana are paid off by the oil companies so I want to see a doctor at a University hospital because there is a good chance that I have asbestosis—my voice is getting deeper and I sweat a lot more when I work out—I'm not getting enough oxygen.
"One day I was doing some research on the Internet because I've had pneumonia a lot in the past ten years (of course these spots could be from the pneumonia) and I thought there might be a link with the barite because I breathed that stuff for hours, every day.
"When you make mud you add barite and different chemicals to stabilize it, such as toxic soda to control the ph, and acid to bring down the ph, and asbestos was mixed into the barite for a number of years. I'll bet that a lot of the old hands, those guys who have been around a long time, all have some form of asbestosis. I know there have been settlements, and now this incredible $322 million verdict, but some of us have nothing.
READ MORE ASBESTOS DRILLING MUD LEGAL NEWS
According to the Biloxi Sun Herald (July 15, 2011), The Mississippi Supreme Court halted all proceedings in Brown's asbestos case (that resulted in the $322 million verdict) until it determines whether the trial judge should have stepped down. A petition filed by Union Carbide was granted for a review regarding whether Circuit Judge Eddie Bowen should not have presided over the case. Judge Bowen failed to notify defense lawyers that his parents had settled a previous asbestos case against Union Carbide. Apparently, Union Carbide settled a lawsuit with the elder Bowens in lawsuits dating from 1989 and 1992.