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Asbestos Drilling Mud Lawsuit Like David vs. Goliath

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Houston, TXLike a David vs. Goliath lawsuit, a mesothelioma victim stood up against Union Carbide—and won his asbestos drilling mud lawsuit, with the help of asbestos attorney James Ferrell, R.G. Taylor II, P.C.

In October 2011, a jury in Mississippi awarded Russell Nix, a former oil rig worker, $1,500,000 ($1,000,000 actual damage and $500,000 in punitive damages, as well as attorneys' fees and costs) in an asbestos drilling mud lawsuit against Union Carbide. Mr. Nix, age 74 at the time of the trial, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2010, and at the time of the trial, he was given only three months to live. He had already undergone drainage of lung fluid and 12-15 sessions of chemotherapy.

Nix testified about using Union Carbide's asbestos drilling product and his daily living in his products liability lawsuit, Russell Nix v. Union Carbide Corp., No. 2010-85-cv8, with Judge Billy Joe Landrum presiding.

Nix was exposed to drilling mud additive from 1980 to 1985, when he worked throughout various drilling rigs in Texas and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico for WellTech. According to the lawsuit, Nix worked with a product manufactured by Union Carbide and sold under the trade name SuperVisbestos. Nix said he poured a 50-pound bag of the additive mix into the hopper, which is a hole in the drilling rig, two or three times a week.

Drilling mud asbestos additive products were sold in 50-pound bags and were used as a thickener in the drilling mud process and mixed directly into drilling mud. "In many instances, rig workers poured these additives in confined spaces, without the aid of respiratory equipment to protect them from the dangerous asbestos fibers contained in the thickener product," Ferrell said.

Ferrell, along with two other attorneys, sued Union Carbide—along with approximately 60 other defendants—on behalf of Nix for products liability. Ferrell did his homework diligently and found that the Visbestos and SuperVisbestos additives manufactured by Union Carbide were between 95 and 99 percent pure asbestos. Other drilling mud additives include Flosal, Visquik, Shurlift, Superbest, Univis and Arcovis. These additives were supplied to rigs by oilfield service companies such as Baker Hughes, Baroid, IMCO, and Macobar. At the time of the trial, however, UCC was the only remaining defendant (others settled beforehand).

And Ferrell knew who to call. During trial, Ferrell's industrial hygiene expert testified that Nix was exposed to high levels of asbestos while working with SuperVisbestos. Further, a petroleum engineering expert testified that the warnings on the drilling mud additive bags were inadequate because they failed to warn that the material was a carcinogen; they failed to warn workers that breathing asbestos could cause lung cancer and they never advised Nix or his employer to wear a proper respirator to prevent him from inhaling asbestos dust.

The jury found that Union Carbide "acted with actual malice and evil intent, and that Union Carbide was guilty of willful, wanton, and reckless disregard for the safety of the plaintiff." The jury found that Union Carbide's conduct was deliberately undertaken with intent to cause serious harm.

Ferrell says that lawsuits can also be filed against the manufacturers of other asbestos-containing products that are commonly used on oil rigs, such as pumps, boilers, valves, thermal insulation, packing and gaskets.


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