Asbestos and Mesothelioma: Georgia-Pacific Exposed Again

This is a follow-up to my post on Asbestos and Mesothelioma in May fussing about how long it has taken for our local school board to remove the asbestos from my kid's school. I bring the subject up again because of an article I recently read about a man (Mr. Timothy Shawn Bostic) who died at the age of 41 as a result of being exposed to asbestos when he was a teenager. The article is reported in the most recent edition of LawyersUSA and titled "Man exposed to asbestos as a child wins $13 million."

The facts of Mr. Bostic's death are tragic. In brief, when Mr. Bostic was a teenager he worked with his father in the construction business. One of his tasks involved sealing the seams between pieces of wall board (also called sheetrock) using a joint compound containing asbestos. The tiny asbestos fibers entered into Mr. Bostic's lungs causing him to develop Mesothelioma. Mr. Bostic showed no signs of having Mesothelioma until shortly before it killed him in 2003. What makes the story even more distressing is what happened after the family filed suit and the jury awarded the verdict.

The First Trial
Mr. Bostic's family filed suit against the manufacturer of the joint compound, Georgia-Pacific, claiming the company "knew, but failed to warn customers, about the dangers of the product." In March, 2005, a jury awarded Mr. Bostic's family $9.3 million ($3.1 million in compensatory damages and $6.2 million in punitive damages). The trial judge then threw out the verdict claiming the jury did not understand how to correctly calculate punitive damages. The judge gave the family a mandate. Either accept a drastically reduced verdict of $2 million or have the case tried again. The family chose to retry the case.

One of the things that bothered me about the judge's mandate is his offer of $2 million. If he felt the jury was confused about punitive damages then why not offer the family all of the compensatory damages (i.e. $3.1 million) and throw out the punitive damages. But it is not my intention to criticize the judiciary in this post.

The Second Trial
The second trial lasted one month. At the end of the trial the new jury deliberated just three hours before awarding the family $13,593,814 ($7,554,904 in compensatory damages and $6,038,910 in punitive damages). The thought comes to mind: "I bet the original $9 million figure is looking pretty good to Georgia-Pacific right about now." The case is currently in the appeals stage. I will update this post once the appeals are over.
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