California court reinstates asbestos compensation verdict against supplier

While awareness of the lethal effects of asbestos has certainly increased in the 21st century, we are still seeing its devastating effects. Unfortunately, many people, especially workers in the construction industry, unknowingly came into contact with the substance and they are now paying the ultimate price.

One such person was a warehouseman and truck driver who worked in Los Angeles County during the seventies. He regularly transported Transite pipes containing fibres of crocidolite, also known as blue asbestos, which is considered to be the deadliest type of Asbestos. Crocidolite fibres are particularly dangerous because of how long, straight, and finely-textured they are, making them much easier to inhale than other asbestos types.

After he was first diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2011, the driver and his wife filed a lawsuit against Special Electric Co., who supplied the asbestos to the pipes' manufacturer and one of the case's other defendants, Johns-Manville Corporation. The claim was that neither of the companies had properly forewarned end users of any hazards.

Despite being found at fault by a jury, whose verdict required both companies to pay the deceased's family compensation. Yet the judge relieved Special Electric Co. of having to pay the fine due to believing that the responsibility of warning users of any danger falls solely on the shoulders of the manufacturer, especially when they are a "sophisticated purchaser" such as John-Manville Corporation, whose reputation as the oldest manufacturer of products containing asbestos means that they should have been more than fully aware of all the risks posed by their goods.

The California Supreme Court, however, disagreed with the decision, and reinstated the jury's verdict. It was argued that while John-Manville should have fully flagged up all known risks to handlers of the pipes, there was no research at the time to suggest that crocidolite was substantially more pernicious than the other forms. It was also stated in the ruling by Justice Carol Corrigan that a broker from Special Electric had reassured Johns-Manville that the material was in fact "safer" than the other types.

The case raises the argument of how liable suppliers are, when they have sold asbestos to companies in the past, for any harm inflicted to the end user of the product, even when the buyer should probably have been aware of the risks.

If you have either been diagnosed yourself or have lost a loved one to an illness related to asbestos exposure in the last three years, such as mesothelioma, then The Asbestos Claim Centre can help you make a compensation claim. Click here for more information, or call us on 0800 508 8747.

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