A jury has recently awarded a widow $2.38 Million in a landmark mesothelioma lawsuit against Union Carbide Corporation. Union Carbide is an asbestos supplier and subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company that shipped its asbestos products to the victim’s employer for more than four decades.
The lawsuit was brought forth by Thomasina Fowler, who lost her husband, Charley Edenfield, to mesothelioma. Charley worked for a manufacturing plant that made adhesives, and his job was to mix substances in the powder room. Through this work, Charley was routinely exposed to Union Carbide’s asbestos, branded as Calidria.
Charley was first diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2009, at age 74. By 2011, he had succumbed to the disease, after two years of suffering from the physical and mental impacts of mesothelioma. He missed invaluable time with his grandchildren, including his granddaughter’s graduation.
An Initial Defeat in the Courtroom
However, this winning lawsuit wasn’t the first time Thomasina tried to seek justice for her late husband. Thomasina’s first wrongful death suit was dismissed in December 2015, awarding summary judgment to Union Carbide. The judgment concluded there was insufficient evidence of asbestos exposure for a case to proceed to trial.
In May 2017, the decision was reversed by the New Jersey Appellate Division, as the shipments of more than 40,000 pounds of asbestos to Charley’s employer-provided enough evidence of asbestos exposure for a jury trial.
Two of Charley’s co-workers also testified in the hearing, stating that Charley would scoop up asbestos and relocate it throughout the plant and that he often wore a mask for protection against the visible dust in his working areas.
The appellate court granted the appeal.
A $2.38 Million Victory
In December 2018, Thomasina and her team went back to court. The trial spanned two months and relied upon shipment records and information from numerous witnesses to prove Charley’s frequent exposure to Calidria.
During the trial, Union Carbide tried to claim Calidria is different than other forms of asbestos and therefore didn’t cause mesothelioma. Fortunately, this argument didn’t hold up.
“No one has ever said that Union Carbide’s asbestos is different [and] doesn’t cause mesothelioma,” said Amber Long, of Konigsberg LLP. “No one has said this outside of court.”
Union Carbide also argued that Charley didn’t work with Calidria and that there was no evidence that Calidria was used in the part of the plant he regularly worked. The defendants also argued there was no indication that Charley came into frequent contact with Calidria.
By contrast, the plaintiffs proved Charley’s frequent interaction with Calidria and demonstrated the extraordinary pain and suffering Charley endured during his final years. They asked the jury to compensate Charley’s estate accordingly, and the jury obliged.
The Jury’s Verdict
The jury’s verdict found Union Carbide Corporation responsible for Charley’s mesothelioma and the resulting anguish. As a result, judge Ana Viscomi awarded $2.38 Million to Thomasina for compensatory damages.
However, no punitive damages were awarded. While the court agreed that Charley’s estate deserved to be awarded for the costs of his death, it did not appear to find Union Carbide’s actions reckless or negligent—the standard criteria for punitive damages.
Regardless, the victory can be considered a happy ending for Thomasina and Charley, who have finally seen some justice for his suffering.
Not the First Major Loss for Union Carbide
Unfortunately for Union Carbide, this recent mesothelioma lawsuit is not the first time the company has made headlines for its irresponsible nature and devastating impact on human life.
On December 2, 1984, Union Carbide’s industrial pesticide plant in Bhopal, India leaked approximately 30 tons of noxious gas into the community. Over 600,000 people in the area were exposed to the deadly gas, methyl isocyanate and suffered horrifying side effects. Victims exposed to methyl isocyanate experience burning in their throats and eyes, nausea and death. In the Bhopal incident, the toxic fumes lingered close to the ground, causing further devastation to those in the vicinity. The final death toll has been unreliable, but estimates range between 3,800 to 16,000 people killed that night and in the years following. The government still warns of contamination in the area.
Despite this marred history, Dow Chemical purchased Union Carbide in 2001 and continues to operate the company. If you have a work history with either company and have since received a diagnosis, you may have a case for a mesothelioma lawsuit. Contact our Justice Support Team today at (866) 608-8933.