Interestingly, the asbestosis award was the biggest ever, and not the mesothelioma awards. Historically, some asbestosis victims thought (and some were told) that they had to be diagnosed with mesothelioma to file an asbestos lawsuit.
These disparate settlement amounts beg the question: why was the Mississippi man, who was diagnosed with asbestosis, awarded so much money while another man, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma, was awarded $320 million less?
First the Mississippi man: Thomas Brown Jr., age 48, worked in Mississippi oil fields from 1979 to the mid 1980s. Because he couldn't read or write, he started out as a roughneck mixing asbestos drilling mud on drilling rigs in Mississippi and on offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Brown, who is on oxygen support 24/7, was diagnosed with asbestosis, not mesothelioma. Brown inhaled asbestos dust while mixing drilling mud sold by CP Chem and manufactured by Union Carbide. In his lawsuit, Brown's attorney Allen Hossley claimed that CP Chem and Union Carbide continued to market asbestos products even though they knew asbestos was known to cause cancer and lung disease. The suit also claimed that industrial companies such as CP Chem and Union Carbide "put innocent workers at an extreme health risk just to insure greater profits." And the jury agreed. Obviously the defendants did not.
According to the newspaper Laurel Leader-Call, Union Carbide called the verdict "outrageous and completely unsupported by the facts or applicable law." Furthermore, the defendants argued that Brown didn't deserve protection under Mississippi's statue requiring defendants to warn the oil-field workers about the known dangers of their asbestos drilling products—because he couldn't read! That comment likely won't win points with any judge or jury.
READ MORE ASBESTOSIS LEGAL NEWS
And the $2 million settlement was awarded by a New York state jury to a man diagnosed with mesothelioma. In 1996 he poured raw asbestos fibers into molds in a plastics factory. The defendant, Hedman Resources Ltd., a Canadian asbestos mining company, was the asbestos supplier.
According to a report published by NERA Economic Consulting, average asbestos-related filings peaked in 2003, and dropped steadily since then. By 2007, average claim filings bottomed out at 20 percent of 2001 levels, and have remained close to that level since then.
(And LawyersandSettlements will talk with an asbestos attorney to answer that question—stay tuned…)