The 10 Biggest Asbestos Lawsuits in U.S. History
Asbestos has been used for centuries. In the 19th and 20th centuries, asbestos was widely used in the construction industry. It was especially loved for its properties as an excellent fire hydrant, great electrical resistance, and it was cheap and easy to use. Despite its long history, scientists only recently discovered that asbestos was scientifically linked to lethal cancer and Mesothelioma. Before that, people used it with little to no legal consequences. Health issues arise when people inhale airborne fibers of asbestos materials. Because the asbestos fibers are big and sharp, the lungs have a hard time expelling them, and they end up penetrating internal tissues.
Health complications that have been directly linked to asbestos are Asbestosis, a lung disease that is common among textile workers. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelial lining in the lungs and chest cavity, which can remain undetected for 20-50 years. Several cancers have been linked to asbestos, including lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, and kidney and larynx cancer. Sixty-seven countries worldwide have banned the use of asbestos, including the European Union.
Although there are many federal and state regulations on asbestos usage in the U.S, the Environment Protection Agency doesn’t ban the use of asbestos. Some companies still use dangerous materials and have been the subject of many litigations. People suffering from Mesothelioma have sued many manufacturers in the U.S, leading to some of the biggest settlements in the country. Compensation for asbestos-related cases in the U.S is generally above $1 million. Here are ten of the most significant asbestos lawsuits in the county’s history.
10. Walter Koczur v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. (Two people died from Asbestos poisoning) – $22 Million
In 2011, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and Goodyear Canada were ordered by a New York Supreme Court jury to pay $22 in damages to the families of two former employees who had died from asbestos poisoning. Walter Koczur had worked as a steamfitter for the companies between 1969 and 1973, and Eugene McCarthy as an engine mechanic for heavy equipment at around the same time. They were both exposed to sheet gaskets made by Goodyear that had asbestos. Both of them succumbed to lung cancer in 1998. Their families filed a lawsuit against the two companies the same year the men died.
According to Oginski Law, the jury found that Goodyear’s gasket policies were partly to blame. They awarded Mr. Koczurs’s family $11.6 million, and $1.9 million was awarded to his wife. Mr. Mccarthy’s family received $8.5 million in damages.
9. Alfred D’Ulisse v. DaimlerChrysler (A brake re-liner suffered from Mesothelioma) – $25 Million
In 2006, a New York Supreme Court jury ordered DaimlerChrysler to pay $25 million to a 73-year-old man who worked as a brake re-liner and contracted Mesothelioma. In the lawsuit, Alfred D’Ulisse claimed that he had become exposed to asbestos while working on Chrysler cars and re-lining brakes for Chrysler cars. The asbestos exposure happened between 1969 to 1981 while he was working at an auto shop in Brooklyn, New York City. DaimlerChrysler is the fifth largest automotive manufacturer in the world, and the lawsuit accused the company of negligence and reckless disregard for the safety of others. Despite knowing that their brakes contained asbestos, they failed to warn consumers of the risks.
The jury found Chrysler to be jointly and severally liable for the man’s Mesothelioma and ordered the company to pay the man 80% of the settlement amount. In comparison, two other companies were found 10% liable each.
8. Ralph Hutt v. W.R Grace & Company (former employee contracted Asbestosis) – $36.5 Million
In 2022, a Montana District Court Jury awarded $36.5 million to Ralph Hutt, who contacted Asbestosis after exposure to asbestos while working for W.R Grace and Company. For the longest time, W.R Grace and Company operated an asbestos mine in Libby, Montana. Libby has one of the biggest environmental disasters in the country. Vermiculite was mined there for over half a century and was often mixed with asbestos, which is toxic. Mr. Hutt worked in the mine for less than two years in the 1960s. In 2002, he was diagnosed with Asbestosis, which is caused by exposure to asbestos.
The cases against the mining company started in the 1990s, but after paying a few million in damages, the company filed for bankruptcy. According to Asbestos.com, the company formed a trust fund to compensate plaintiffs in the future, and the W.R trust fund is one of the largest in the U.S. Hutt was awarded $6.5 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages.
7. Robert Whalen v. John Crane Inc. (asbestos packing and gasket materials) – $70.8 million
In 2014, John Crane Inc. was ordered to pay $70.8 million to Robern Wharen and his wife for asbestos-containing products that the plaintiff had used as a Navy Machinist. Robert was diagnosed with pleural Mesothelioma in 2013. Pleural Mesothelioma is fatal cancer in the lining of the lung. He sued the John Crane company, which manufactures asbestos packing and gasket materials, in 2014. Robert was a naval machinist and nuclear inspector who worked on nuclear submarines for 26 years until he retired from the army in 1990. In the lawsuit, Robert claimed that he had unknowingly worked with asbestos products manufactured by the John Crane company during the 26 years he had served in the navy. He claimed that the company failed to state the dangers of asbestos and warn the consumers about the potential hazards of the products.
Robert accused the company of negligence which led to his 2013 diagnosis. If the company had given proper warnings, he would have taken better care of himself and precautions when using the products. The jury only deliberated for a day before coming to a decision. According to California State Records, The jury awarded $40 million in non-economic damages, $30 million in loss of consortium damages to his wife, and $861,113 in economic damages.
6. Robaey v. Air and Liquid Systems, et al. (Asbestos exposure led to Mesothelioma in both husband and wife) – $75 Million
The lawsuit against Dana Companies LLC and Fel Pro accused the companies of negligence for failing to warn consumers about the dangers of asbestos in their products. In 2017, a jury awarded Marlena and Ed Robaey $75 million in damages after long asbestos exposure led to both suffering from Mesothelioma. Marlena and Ed met in the 1970s at Huntington hospital, where she and Ed worked. Ed was a maintenance mechanic, and the lawsuit claimed that he was constantly exposed to asbestos dust while on the job.
Because he brought the clothes covered in asbestos dust home to his wife, he unknowingly exposed her to the toxic material. As a car enthusiast, he frequently worked on cars at home, and his wife would help him occasionally. And they both described seeing asbestos dust coming from used gaskets removed from engines, and at the time, they did not know that the dust was a health hazard and continued doing this for more than 20 years.
Both of them were diagnosed with Mesothelioma. Even though Dana Companies LLC and Fel pro denied that the products were responsible for causing cancer in the two, a jury found them 40% and 30% liable, respectively. According to Weitz & Luxenberg, the two companies were ordered to pay $75 million in damages to the couple.
5. Gerri Coogan et al. v. Genuine Parts Co. et al. (Asbestos exposure that led to a man’s death) – $81.5 Million
In 2017, a jury found both Napa Auto parts and Genuine Parts Corp liable for the death of a man who died from Mesothelioma. The companies were ordered to pay $81.5 million to the family of Jerry Coogan. Jerry Coogan was an excavator operator, and he maintains and repairs construction equipment such as bulldozers, trenchers, and cranes. Mr. Coogan faces asbestos while on the job fixing cars. His family testified to his love of cars and excavating equipment. Most of this machinery with friction parts like gaskets, clutches, and brakes has asbestos. The lawsuit accused the companies of knowing that their products contained dangerous material but failed to warn consumers of the risks of asbestos exposure. Coogan has Mesothelioma, and in 2015 he succumbs to the disease. He dies at the age of 67.
A jury from Pierce County Superior Court found Napa Auto Parts and Genuine Parts Corp responsible for the death of Coogan for their negligence and for failing to warn customers about the asbestos in their products. Coogan’s family filed a lawsuit against the two companies for negligence. The family has $81.5 million in damages.
4. Stephen Lanzo, III v. Cyprus Amax Minerals Company (Asbestos in Baby Powder that caused cancer) – $117 Million
In 2018, a jury ordered Johnson and Johnson and Imery Talc America Inc. to pay $117 million to Stephen Lanzo and his wife Kendra for exposure to Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and Mesothelioma Shower Shower talc products. In the lawsuit, Stephen Lanzo claimed that he had been diagnosed with Mesothelioma caused by his regular use of Johnson & Johnson baby powder products that he had inhaled since birth.
During the trial, the plaintiff’s lawyers showed the jury confidential documents that revealed that the defendants had known about the asbestos present in their products that dated back to the 1960s. The two companies had done tests that showed their talc products contained asbestos. In the 2000s, independent bodies tested their products, proving that the talc products contained asbestos, and submitted their findings to Johnson & Johnson, who mostly did nothing about it.
According to Levy Law, the New Jersey jury found the two companies liable for Mesothelioma in Stephen Lanzo. It awarded him $37 million in compensatory damages, $30 million for his past and future pain, and $7 million in spousal damages to his wife.
3. Talcum Powder Lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson (Asbestos in baby powder caused Mesothelioma) – $186 Million
In 2020, a New Jersey judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $186 million in punitive damages to four plaintiffs who had sued the company for the asbestos in their talcum powder that led to their Mesothelioma. The four plaintiffs claimed that the talcum powder they had used continuously for a long time contained asbestos which caused their cancers. Johnson & Johnson strongly denied that any of their products contain asbestos. One of many cases against the company alleged that the asbestos in their baby powder caused Mesothelioma.
In an earlier trial, a jury had awarded the plaintiffs $37.2 million in compensatory damages. Reuters reported that in a second trial, a jury awarded them $750 million in Punitive damages. However, according to New Jersey’s state law, punitive damages cap at five times the amount of compensatory damages. Therefore, the judge reduces the punitive damage award to $186 million.
2. Consolidated Lawsuit against Cleaver Brooks Inc. and Burnham LLC (Asbestos injuries to employees) – $190 Million
In 2013, two boiler companies, Cleaver-Brooks Inc. and Burnham LLC pay $190 million to five former employees with asbestos cancers. Sadly, only two plaintiffs are alive to listen to the verdict. Three of them die from Mesothelioma. The plaintiffs work as plumbers, steamfitters, and construction workers at the two companies.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs receive no warning regarding the dangers of asbestos exposure. The five men, during their careers, work with asbestos during their jobs. One with boilers and boiler parts. Another as he removes boilers containing asbestos during construction. Another is while working as a plumber. This requires him to handle numerous asbestos-ridden parts. The last one while fitting pipes in aircraft in the 1950s and 1960s.
The jury found both defendants negligent for failing to warn their employees about the hazards of working with asbestos products. According to Agruss Law, the two surviving plaintiffs were awarded $60 million each, while the families of the deceased were awarded between $20 to $30 million.
1. Roby Whittington v. U.S Steel (Liability claim by a former employee who contracted Mesothelioma) – $250 Million
In 2003, a jury awarded a retired U.S Steel employee $250 million in damages for contracting Mesothelioma from asbestos exposure while working for the company. U.S Steel is a company that manufactures and sells steel sheets, plates, and tubular and tin products. The company’s biggest steel manufacturing plant is Gary Works. It is the biggest steel plant in North America. The case is by Roby Whittington, whose husband dies from Mesothelioma.
When he retired, Mr. Whittington worked at Gary Works from 1950 to 1981. According to the lawsuit, his wife believes his exposure to asbestos by his employer, U.S Steel makes him ill. He now has Mesothelioma. His doctor diagnoses with deadly cancer in 2001, 20 years after he retired from the company.
The lawsuit accused the company of intentionally exposing him to the lethal products without warning him of the risks involved. Even though they were fully aware of the possible consequences. According to Business Insurance, the jury awarded her $200 million in punitive damages and $50 million in compensatory damages.