Workers Win $190M in Asbestos Case

FRIDAY, JULY 26, 2013

A New York jury has ordered two companies to hand over $190 million to five workers, including a painter and construction worker, who contracted mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos on the job.

Only two of the plaintiffs lived to see the favorable outcome. Three of the men have died from the cancer.

Following an 11-week trial, the New York Supreme Court jurors returned their verdict Tuesday (July 23), finding national boiler manufacturers Cleaver-Brooks and Burnham Corp. negligent in having failed to warn about the dangers of the asbestos used in connection with their equipment, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys from Weitz & Luxenberg, a New York City-based mass tort and personal injury firm.

The verdict is 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 announced.

About the Plaintiffs

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

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

The other surviving worker and recipient of a $60 million portion of the jury’s verdict was Paul Levy, of Toms River, NJ, case documents said. During the 50s and 60s, 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 other three deceased workers—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 immediately respond Thursday (July 25) 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. Persons occupationally exposed to asbestos have developed several types of life-threatening diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

U.S. Department of Labor

Asbestos is a mineral 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; Maintenance + Renovation

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