Aubin v. Union Carbide Corp. – $6.6M Asbestos Verdict Reinstated

A $6.6 million verdict in favor of an asbestos injury plaintiff was reinstated after the Florida Supreme Court ruled an appellate court had wrongly reversed the trial court’s conclusion of the case. dust

Plaintiff in Aubin v. Union Carbide Corp. was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, a form of terminal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Plaintiff claimed he was exposed to the toxic material by way of a product called SG-210 Caldria, a product designed and manufactured by defendant. He had worked as a construction supervisor at his father’s firm between 1972 and 1974, overseeing construction of a residential development in South Florida, and claimed it was during this time he was exposed to the dust during the sanding and sweeping of drywall compounds and ceiling texture sprays, which contained SG-210 Caldria.

At the time, plaintiff asserted he did not know the compounds he was working with contained asbestos, and therefore had no idea he was at risk of developing the serious illness.

He filed a lawsuit against a number of defendants, this one included. He resolved claims with all other defendants, leaving only his case against Union Carbide Corp. pending for trial. He alleged a number of product liability theories against defendant, including strict liability design defect, strict liability failure to warn and negligent failure to warn.

Evidence presented at trial indicated defendant mined crysotile asbestos in California and then processed and packaged it for use in a number of products. The trade name for those pellets was SG-210 Caldria, and it was used in a myriad of different construction products. The pellets were 99.9 percent pure asbestos. However, defendant was not involved in combining its products to make the end result products, such as texture sprays and drywall compounds.

There was conflicting evidence as to whether defendant warned intermediary manufacturers about the dangers of its products. Defendant insisted it did, while plaintiff asserted defendant actively concealed the truth and failed to put warning labels on the bags. There was evidence to show defendant was aware of the many dangers of the material. For example, an internal report issued in 1964 conceded workers exposed to the material were prone to develop lung-related diseases. Four years later, another report indicated workers exposed even briefly to the product could become sick with cancer.

However, it wasn’t until 1972 that the Occupational Safety & Health Administration required the company to place warning labels on new bags sold.

Plaintiff testified he never wore any protective device and that he never noticed any warning labels on the products he used. If he had, he insisted, he would have protected himself.

Jury instructions indicated that manufacturers such as defendant had a duty to warn end users of unreasonable dangers in the use of its products. Defense objected to this terminology, but trial court overruled and jurors sided with plaintiff. They awarded $14 million in damages. However, because a portion of the liability was assigned to other non-defendant parties (with whom plaintiff had already settled out-of-court), it was reduced to $6 million.

On appeal, the appellate court reversed, concluded case law necessitated the need for plaintiff to prove a reasonable alternative design. However, the state supreme court quashed that decision and reinstated the jury’s verdict, finding instead that the proper test was that of “consumer expectations.” That is, consumers have a right to expect products will be reasonably safe unless otherwise stated.

Our Greenville injury lawyers know that each state varies in its interpretation and application of these principles. Cases involving asbestos injury are complex, and require the aid of a legal team with extensive knowledge and resources.

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

Additional Resources:

Aubin v. Union Carbide Corp. , Oct. 29, 2015, Florida Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Hutchinson v. Sheridan Hill House Corp. – Overcoming Trivial Defect Doctrine in Sidewalk Fall Cases, Nov. 2, 2015, Greenville Injury Attorney Blog

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