Savannah Jury Awards $2M in Mesothelioma Case


Robert Buck. Photo by John Disney/Daily Report.

A Chatham County jury delivered a post-apportioned award of more than $2 million to the wife and estate of a man who died from asbestos-related cancer after decades of working in an Alabama paper pulp mill.

The jury allocated nearly 60 percent of the liability for Perry Adams’ mesothelioma to several companies that had provided Adams materials and equipment, all of whom have either settled or been dismissed from the litigation earlier.

Plaintiffs attorney Rob Buck, whose practice is almost entirely devoted to asbestos litigation, said the trial was the second time the defendant, John Crane Inc., had been found liable for contributing to the death of Perry Adams. In 2013, John Crane and three co-defendants stood trial in the case; two settled during the trial and the third was cleared of liability.

The jury found John Crane liable then, Buck said, but a holdout juror refused to award any damages, and a mistrial was declared.

John Crane’s defense lawyers, William Swallow and Daniel Pammer of O’Connell, Tivin, Miller & Burns’ Chicago office, Edward Ulloa of Hawkins Parnell Thackston & Young’s Los Angeles office and Camille Smith of the firm’s Atlanta office, were not available for comment.

According to Buck and court filings, Adams was 76 when he died in 2012, two years after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. From 1968 to about 1978 he worked as a multicraft mechanic at the Mahrt paper mill in Cottonwood, Alabama. He then served as a supervisor until his retirement.

The latency period for mesothelioma is lengthy, and he became ill several years later, Buck said. When he was diagnosed with the disease in 2010, Buck said doctors withdrew 14 liters of fluid from his lungs.

During trial, “I actually stacked up 14 liter bottles of water to demonstrate how much fluid they took out,” said Buck.

Adams initially sued multiple defendants for exposing him to asbestos in Chatham County state court in 2010, including John Crane, which had manufactured asbestos gaskets and packing material he used at the plant.

When Adams died, his wife, Vera Adams, and the executor were substituted as plaintiffs in the personal injury suit.

During a 10-day trial before Chief Judge H. Gregory Fowler, Buck said jurors were told that John Crane, which has been sued multiple times in asbestos-related suits going back as far as 1980, had never tested its products to see whether they were safe.

Instead, he said, the company’s lawyers relied on scientific journal articles published by Chemrisk, which Buck described as a “litigation consultant” that John Crane’s lawyers had paid more than $15 million to fund “doubt science” about its products.

Defense lawyers argued that Adams had not been exposed to any John Crane products. Even if he had been, they said the exposures were too low to have caused any harm, and that exposure to other substances had caused his mesothelioma.

The plaintiffs’ experts included David Rosner, co-director of the Center for the History & Ethics of Public Health at Columbia University. Buck said the only defense witness was industrial hygienist Charles Blake of Kennesaw.

Savannah Jury Awards $2M in Mesothelioma Case

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