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NJ Court Affirms 7.5 Million Mesothelioma Verdict

oil refinery worker in New JerseyIn 2006 the NJ Supreme Court made clear the family members who develop an asbestos related disease have a right to seek compensation from the worksite where the exposure originated. Today a NJ appellate court affirmed a verdict for the wife of a worker who brought asbestos home on his clothing from the Exxon Bayway  refinery.

We currently have 5 similar cases with upcoming trial dates. This decision will surely help those families. Below is the article reprinted from the star ledger explaining the case more fully.

N.J. appellate court upholds $7M award from Exxon to woman handling husband’s asbestos-laden clothing |

In upholding the jury verdict, the court also said Bonnie Anderson’s husband, John, is entitled to $500,000 and it added interest that’s still accruing.

“If we had a picture under the definition ‘innocent victim,’ this would be it,” said Moshe Maimon, a New York attorney who represents Anderson. “This is a tremendous precedent in terms of the families of workers.”

A 2006 state Supreme Court decision said people with a secondary exposure to asbestos can sue companies they believe are liable. Today’s appellate ruling marked the first time a jury verdict in such a case was upheld, Maimon said.

Exxon spokesman Kevin Allexon said the company had not decided whether it will appeal the ruling to the state’s highest court.

“Whatever the end result is, I hope I’m alive to see it,” Anderson, 61, said today. An electrician and librarian, she said she’s gone from being “a supermom” who worked and cared for her family to having to be looked after by her husband. She’s had surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation — which she said gave her leukemia — and now spends most of her time at home, where she is active in mesothelioma awareness and support groups.

“For me, it’s not about the money, it’s about the disease,” Anderson said. “I’d give anything to get my life back.”

According to the decision, John Anderson worked at Exxon’s Linden Bayway Refinery from 1969 to 2004. For the first six years of his employment, his job required him to remove insulation to fix pumps and filters.

Exxon held safety meetings and gave its workers helmets, but it did not give them respirators or uniforms or tell them the flying dust their work created had asbestos in it, the ruling stated. Asbestos is a mineral containing fibers that, once airborne, can lodge in a person’s lungs. It causes several ailments, including the cancer mesothelioma, which has a long latency period.

“John never knew what kind of insulation it was,” the decision said. “He worked in his own street clothes, which Bonnie always laundered. Standing near the washing machine, she would shake out as much dust as possible. She often complained about the dust in his clothes and hair.”

Anderson, who herself worked at the refinery from 1975 to 1986, suffered stomach pains and swelling in 2001 and was diagnosed with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma.

“It’s obviously a very positive ruling for injured people — particularly here in New Jersey where the we have the highest percentage of mesothelioma victims per capita” in the nation, said Red Bank attorney Christopher Placitella, whose practice largely involves mesothelioma cases. “It reaffirms the duty of a property owner to provide a safe workplace.”

Placitella also said it’s important the court agreed with the Andersons’ position “that all exposures contributed to the development of the disease” because companies cannot argue people have no case if they can’t pinpoint which exposure made them sick.

The court also rejected Exxon’s arguments that the case should have been a worker’s compensation complaint and that the trial judge erred by ordering a second trial to allow a jury to reconsider damages. The first jury awarded Anderson $100,000.

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