Recently, three asbestos cases, Lege, Chabaud, and Gaddy, have produced significant verdicts in Louisiana. Interestingly, Chabaud, a case of disputed asbestosis, produced the largest reported award for an asbestos personal injury claim in Louisiana history. Below is a brief summary of each of these matters.
On October 14, 2019 an Orleans Parish jury awarded over $8 million to plaintiffs in Elray Lege et al. v. Union Carbide et al., Orleans Parish, Case No. 2016-5598. Decedent Elray Lege was diagnosed with mesothelioma at 70 years old. He allegedly worked as an insulator for Cajun Insulation at the Cities Services/Columbian Chemical facility in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Lege only spent two months at this facility in 1978 and/or 1979. Prior to his death, Lege testified that his co-workers told him that some of the old insulation he removed contained asbestos. Out of eleven originally named defendants in the suit, Birla Carbon, the successor to Columbian Chemicals, was the only defendant at trial. After four hours of deliberation, the jury found Birla to be 51% at fault and awarded $4 million in survival damages and $4 million in wrongful death damages: $2 million to the widow and $500,000 to each of the four surviving children.
On October 25, 2019 a St. James Parish jury awarded $17.2 million in Kevin F. Chabaud v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, et al., St. James Parish, Case No. 37286. In this case, Decedent Kevin Chabaud, a smoker with pulmonary fibrosis who died at age 61, was diagnosed with asbestosis posthumously. His treating physicians diagnosed him with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which was confirmed by two local doctors who performed autopsies. Plaintiff’s expert Dr. Richard Kradin diagnosed Decedent with asbestosis posthumously. Prior to his death, Chabaud, who worked as an employee pipefitter, laborer, and mechanic at Freeport/Mosaic from 1976 to 1999 at a facility in Convent, Louisiana, testified that he worked with Ameron International Corporation’s (“Ameron”) Bondstrand 5000 pipe “thousands of times” throughout his career. After 36 minutes of deliberation, the jury awarded $11.5 million for the survival claim and $5.7 million for wrongful death. Prior to Chabaud, the highest Louisiana verdict (also against Ameron) stood at $12 million.
On November 8, 2019 a $7.75 million dollar verdict was handed down in the United States District Court Eastern District of Louisiana in James L. Gaddy v. Taylor-Seidenbach Inc., et al., No. 19-12926, E.D. La. James Gaddy filed suit against numerous defendants after his mesothelioma diagnosis at the age of 85. He worked as a chemical engineer for Ethyl Corporation, the sole defendant remaining at trial. Gaddy subsequently passed away and his estate continued the case. The jury found Ethyl Corporation and one other defendant exposed plaintiff to asbestos that was a substantial contributing cause of his death, and found both employers liable for negligence and strict liability. In addition, the jury found that Owens-Illinois manufactured an unreasonably dangerous product that contributed to his disease. The jury awarded $2.5 million for physical pain and suffering, $2.5 million for mental anguish, $2.5 million for loss of enjoyment of life, and $250,661.45 in medical expenses. Ethyl Corporation will be held responsible for one third of the verdict amount, approximately $2.5 million.