Union Pipefitter Wins West Virginia Mesothelioma Lawsuit

On November 3rd of 2010, a West Virginia jury found that a pipefitter’s mesothelioma was caused by exposure to John Crane gaskets. The attorneys for both parties entered into a confidential agreement in which John Crane would pay a specific amount of money if they were found liable by the jury. Because that agreement was triggered, the jury did not need to decide how much money to award.

The jury was made up entirely of women, which is unusual. It’s rare that a jury is made up entirely of one gender. The trial lasted for six days, and the jurors only needed about two hours to determine that John Crane was liable.

John Crane made gaskets that contained chrysotile asbestos. John Crane argued that the plaintiff’s mesothelioma was actually caused by exposure to large amounts of amosite asbestos pipe covering. The plaintiff worked for over 40 years as a union pipefitter, and it is therefore very likely that he was exposed to a large amount of amosite. Amosite is generally considered to be more carcinogenic that chrysotile asbestos.

This case therefore had the same factual issue that many asbestos lawsuits have: determining which company’s asbestos caused a person to develop mesothelioma when the individual was exposed to asbestos from multiple companies. Although there may be a few quacks out there who claim otherwise, no reputable doctor claims to be able to determine which exposure caused a cancer to develop.

Because science cannot answer that question, courts usually adopt some sort of a “substantial contributing factor” test in which multiple companies can be found liable if each of them made asbestos that substantially contributed to an individual’s illness.

The case was Robert L. Wood, et al. v. John Crane Inc., et al., No. 10-C-91, W.Va. Cir., Kanawha Co.).

Leave a Reply