A jury in Baltimore, Maryland has awarded $2.4 million to the family of Daniel Edwards, a forklift driver who died in 2008 of mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the protective lining of the body’s major organs and cavities that is caused almost exclusively by prolonged exposure to asbestos. Edwards’ cancer specifically affected the lining of his chest and lungs.
Edwards’ family claimed that he had contracted mesothelioma while moving bags of asbestos with a forklift for six years at Charlotte, North Carolina-based National Gypsum Co., where Edwards began working in 1969. Mesothelioma generally takes between 20 and 50 years to develop and only becomes symptomatic when it reaches stage three or four. There is no cure for this or any other cancer, but mesothelioma prognosis is particularly grim. Life expectancy is usually no longer than 18 months, even when patients receive aggressive treatment.
Union Carbide Corp. mined and supplied the asbestos that Edwards was in charge of moving. Ye the company failed to warn workers about the risks asbestos exposure. Whenever asbestos is disturbed, carcinogenic asbestos fibers become airborne. These fibers are easily inhaled and lodge in the lungs where they fester for decades eventually leading to the development of mesothelioma.
Attorneys for Houston, Texas-based Union Carbide argued that National Gypsum was responsible for issuing the aforementioned safety warnings to employees. In order to protect itself from asbestos suits, National Gypsum filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the US bankruptcy code in 1990.
Under a Maryland law setting a cap on legal damages, the award will be reduced to USD2.2 million.