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Painter Shares in $190M Asbestos Award

Monday, August 5, 2013

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Two boiler manufacturers have been ordered to pay $190 million to five workers—including three who have since died—for workplace asbestos exposures that led them to contract mesothelioma.

Only two of the five plaintiffs, who included a painter and construction worker, lived to see the verdict.

New York Supreme Court jurors returned their decision July 23 after an 11-week trial.

The jurors found national boiler manufacturers Cleaver-Brooks and Burnham Corp. negligent for having failed to warn about the dangers of the asbestos used with their equipment, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys from Weitz & Luxenberg, a New York City-based mass tort and personal injury firm.

Centers for Disease Control
Centers for Disease Control

The $190 million jury verdict was the largest consolidated asbestos verdict in New York history, according to the plaintiffs' attorneys.

The judgment was the largest consolidated asbestos verdict in New York history, the plaintiffs’ attorneys said in a press release. The verdict said both companies had acted with “reckless disregard for human life,” the attorneys said.

About the Plaintiffs

All five tradesmen plaintiffs reportedly contracted mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos on the job.

One of the surviving plaintiffs was Cesar Serna, a painter and construction worker from Howard Beach, NY, according to case documents. Serna was involved with the removal and demolition of boilers containing asbestos-laden parts. He was awarded $60 million in the case.

The other surviving worker, who was also awarded $60 million, was Paul Levy, of Toms River, NJ, case documents said. During the 1950s and 1960s, Levy worked as a pipefitter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He was exposed to asbestos while fitting pipes into the salt-water distilling units aboard aircraft carriers like the USS Constellation and USS Independence.

Families of the three deceased plaintiffs—Robert Brunk, Santos Assenzio and Raymond Vincent—were awarded $20 million to $30 million each, according to case documents.

Centers for Disease Control
Centers for Disease Control

Although the use of asbestos and asbestos products has dramatically declined in recent years, the mineral continues to pose a health risk to workers and others.

The defendant-manufacturers or their attorneys did not respond to requests for comment on the verdict.

‘No Amount Unreasonable’

“I told the jury there wasn’t an amount they could give these men that would be unreasonable,” attorney Danny Kraft Jr. said in a statement.

“The defendants in this case subjected thousands of men and women to a terribly toxic substance. It is likely these companies took a calculated risk in doing so. That isn’t a debt that can be repaid.”

Asbestos Hazards

When handled, asbestos can separate into microscopic-size particles that remain in the air and are easily inhaled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Workers exposed to asbestos have developed several types of life-threatening diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

asbestos
U.S. Department of Labor

Asbestos is classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Although the use of asbestos and asbestos products has dramatically declined in recent years, the mineral continues to pose a health risk to workers and others, as asbestos was used in a wide variety of construction and manufacturing applications through most of the 20th century.

A 2012 report from the U.S. Geological Survey said U.S. consumption of asbestos increased by 13 percent, to reach 1,180 metric tons, in 2011 from the previous year. Roofing products accounted for 41 percent of the consumption.

The Defendant Companies

Founded in 1929, Cleaver-Brooks is a boiler room equipment manufacturer that develops a variety of hot water and steam generation products for commercial, industrial and institutional markets.

Headquartered in Thomasville, GA, Cleaver-Brooks operates manufacturing and warehousing facilities in 10 locations globally, including Gonzales, TX; Terrebonne, Canada; and Mexico City, Mexico.

The Burnham Corp. manufactures boilers and related HVAC products for residential, commercial and industrial applications. Founded in 1856 and headquartered in Lancaster, PA, the company sells products throughout the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Burnham Corp. is a part of Burnham Holdings, which owns 14 subsidiaries.

   

Tagged categories: Air quality; Asbestos; Building materials; Construction; Construction chemicals; Health and safety; Laws and litigation

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