Products Liability Law Daily Valve maker must pay $5M in fatal asbestos-exposure case
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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Valve maker must pay $5M in fatal asbestos-exposure case

By Susan Engstrom

A South Carolina jury found Fisher Controls International, LLC liable for a utility worker’s death from malignant melanoma caused by his exposure to asbestos contained in the company’s valves.

Finding that the manufacturer’s negligence and breach of implied warranty were proximate causes of the worker’s death, the jury awarded his widow $3 million in actual damages and $2.125 million in punitive damages. However, the jury found that the company was not strictly liable for the decedent’s injuries. The jury also found no liability on the part of two other defendant manufacturers, Crosby Valve, LLC and Carboline Company (Glenn v. Fisher Controls, January 25, 2019).

The widow had sued several companies—including Fisher Controls, Crosby Valve, and Carboline—alleging that her husband, during the course of his work in utilities and instrumentation, had inhaled asbestos dust and asbestos fibers from various asbestos-containing materials manufactured and sold by the defendants. As a result, he developed malignant mesothelioma, from which he died, the widow contended.

In her complaint, the widow asserted that the defendants were negligent in failing to: (1) advise her husband of the dangerous characteristics of the asbestos-containing products; (2) place any warnings on the products; (3) implement a plan to safely handle the material; and (4) use a safe alternative product. According to the widow, it was feasible for the companies to have warned her husband, tested their products, and designed safer ones. She also alleged that they breached their post-sale duty to warn.

In addition, the complaint asserted that the companies breached the implied warranty of merchantability by supplying asbestos-containing products that were not fit for the ordinary purpose for which they were used, as they emitted harmful material into the atmosphere where the worker carried out his duties. As a result, the complaint maintained, the worker developed mesothelioma. In her strict liability claim, the widow contended that her husband’s injury occurred because the defendants’ products and equipment were in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user in that they were deleterious, poisonous, and highly harmful. Finally, in her claim for punitive damages, the widow asserted that the manufacturers deliberately, intentionally, and purposefully withheld knowledge of their products’ dangers, and that this conduct was the direct and proximate cause of her husband’s injuries.

Jury verdict. The case was tried before a jury, which found that Fisher Controls was negligent and that its negligence was a proximate cause of the worker’s injuries. In addition, the jury determined that Fisher Controls had breached the implied warranty of merchantability and that this also was a proximate cause of the alleged injuries. However, the jury did not find the manufacturer strictly liable for selling products that proximately caused those injuries. The jury cleared Crosby Valves and Carboline of any liability.

The jury awarded the widow $3 million in actual damages, broken down into $1 million each for survival damages, wrongful death damages, and loss of consortium. The jury also found by clear and convincing evidence that Fisher Controls’ conduct was willful, wanton, or reckless, but that the conduct of the other two defendants at issue was not. Finally, the jury awarded the decedent’s estate $2.125 million in punitive damages.

The case is No. 2015-CP-04-01607.

Attorneys: Mona Lisa Wallace (Wallace & Graham) for Rita Joyce Glenn. Phillip Reid (von Briesen & Roper, s.c.) for Fisher Controls International, LLC and Crosby Valves, Inc. Travis Lynn Walden (Walden Reynard PPLC) for Carboline Co.

Companies: Fisher Controls International, LLC; Crosby Valves, Inc.; Carboline Co.

MainStory: TopStory JuryVerdictsNewsStory CausationNews DamagesNews WarningsNews AsbestosNews SouthCarolinaNews

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