Izell v. Union Carbide – Appellate Court Upholds $24M Mesothelioma Award

Asbestos is a fibrous material that for decades was used in everything from flooring material to vehicle brakes. It also happens to be deadly when those fibers are inhaled, causing chronic and terminal illnesses such as lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, which often don’t manifest until decades post-exposure.
Many companies that manufactured and sold asbestos-laden products have been the subject of thousands of lawsuits, mostly because there is ample evidence these companies knew of the dangers this material caused and failed to warn users and workers. In some cases, it’s been found the companies actively concealed this information.

Some firms have established asbestos trusts to pay out proven asbestos injury and wrongful death claims. Others continue to fight the claims in court.

Our Rock Hill injury lawyers understand mesothelioma and asbestos-related claims are complex cases that require extensive investigation and the testimony of qualified expert witnesses. Often, we’re dealing with documents, data and witness accounts from decades earlier, and that can complicate things tremendously.

Still, many plaintiffs working with experienced lawyers are successful. Take for example the recent case of Izell v. Union Carbide Corp., where the California Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District, Division Three, recently upheld a $24 million verdict favoring plaintiff.

According to court records, plaintiff owned a construction firm that built hundreds of homes in the region of southern California from the mid-1960s through the mid-1990s. He was not a laborer on these sites, but did routinely visit and walk through job sites. During these walk-throughs, he was often exposed to dust from the gun plastic cement and premixed joint compound. These products were made by four different manufacturers – each of whom received asbestos from defendant Union Carbide Corp.

Years later, in the summer of 2011, plaintiff was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the age of 85. He and his wife sued various product manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos, including Union.

After a jury trial, a special verdict was returned finding all defendants liable on all asserted theories of negligence and strict product liability. The jury awarded plaintiffs $30 million total, with Union apportioned 65 percent of the fault. A second trial was held with regard to punitive damages – solely against Union. A jury returned a verdict for punitive damages – intended to punish egregious and reckless negligence – with $18 million. The trial court later reduced the original award to $6 million, but declined to reduce the punitive damages, bringing the total award to $24 million.

Union appealed, but the appellate court affirmed, finding jurors had substantial evidence to reach a finding of causation. Jurors relied on the extensive presentation of evidence showing the chain of asbestos supply occurring during that time, and the prevalence of those materials on plaintiff’s job sites.

There was also ample evidence asbestos supplied by Union was a significant cause of plaintiff’s risk of illness.

The appellate court rejected defense assertion there was “no evidence” to support the allocation of just 3 percent fault to joined and non-party defendants. The court indicated that even if there was evidence indicating other manufacturers were responsible for a greater degree of exposure on job sites than the fault apportioned, jurors were allowed to consider the egregiousness of Union’s conduct in apportioning it a greater degree of fault.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Izell v. Union Carbide Corp., Nov. 21, 2014, California Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District, Division Three

More Blog Entries:
Aycock v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. – Product Liability Litigation, Nov. 6, 2014, Rock Hill Injury Lawyer Blog

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