Court upholds $ 33 million jury prize in asbestos death case

A district court has upheld a jury prize of nearly $ 33 million awarded to the widow of a man who died of mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure.

In Finch v. Covil Corp., the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina on Wednesday dismissed the defendant’s motion for a retrial for damages, ruling that there was no reason to overturn the verdict of liability.

After Franklin Finch, a longtime tire factory employee in Wilson, North Carolina, died of mesothelioma, his widow, Amy Finch, sued Covil Corp., an insulation company. of pipe which went bankrupt in 1991 and had sold virtually all of the insulation, including pipe insulation, used during the construction of the tire factory.

Mr. Fitch, who worked at the plant from 1975 to 1995 as a mold changer where insulated steam pipes led to and from the presses. Over 7,000 feet of pipe insulation containing asbestos remained in the plant 15 years after it was built. His widow brought legal action against Covil, alleging negligence of state law and failure to warn. The case went to trial in October 2018 and a jury awarded Ms Fitch $ 32.7 million in damages. Covil argued that she had not presented sufficient evidence to support the verdict of responsibility and argued that the jury’s verdict was excessive.

The district court, however, dismissed Covil’s petition, finding that Ms Fitch had provided ample direct and circumstantial evidence that Covil had sold products containing asbestos to the tire factory at a time when she knew or should have. knowing that the products were dangerous to human health, and that exposure was the immediate cause of Mr. Fitch’s death.

The court ruled that Ms Fitch had presented evidence that Mr Fitch worked in the immediate vicinity of the pipes, that he struck them regularly, causing the release of dust, and that the atmospheric concentrations of asbestos in the plant were high. She also presented evidence that Mr Fitch underwent months of hospitalizations, surgeries, complications and a colostomy before dying and concluded that Covil had a full and fair opportunity to challenge Ms Fitch’s arguments on the merits. .

The court also found that it had presented sufficient evidence that the company had information in the mid-1960s that asbestos was dangerous and caused mesothelioma, but started selling pipe insulation containing it. asbestos at the tire plant in 1973 without providing any warnings.

“The fact that Covil lost and the jury returned an important verdict is down to the evidence, not passion or prejudice,” said the court, which dismissed Covil’s claims.

Lawyers handling the case did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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