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Companies rejected asbestos link to decedent's cancer

Type:

Verdict-Defendant

State:

New Jersey

Venue:

Camden County

Court:

Camden County Superior Court

Injury Type(s):

other-death; cancer-mesothelioma

Case Type:

Wrongful Death; Products Liability - Tobacco, Asbestos, Design Defect, Failure to Warn

Case Name:

Valerie Panzarella as administrator ad prosequendum for the Estate of Michael Argento, deceased v. Charles B. Chrystal Company Inc., Proctor & Gamble Company, RT Vanderbilt Company Inc., Scotts Company LLC, Shulton Inc., Whittaker Clark & Daniels Inc., Wyeth Holdings Corporation, Holingsworth & Vose Company, Lorillard Tobacco Company, American Talc Company, Brenntag North America, Brenntag Specialties, and Vornado Realty Trust (Two Guys), No. MID-L-5418-12AS

Date:

August 15, 2016

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Valarie Panzarella (Female), 

Estate of Micahel Argento (Male, 78 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Moshe Maimon; Levy Konigsberg LLP; Lawrenceville, NJ, for Valarie Panzarella, Estate of Micahel Argento ■ Robert G. Stevens; Szaferman, Lakind, Blumstein & Blader, P.C.; Lawrenceville, NJ, for Valarie Panzarella, Estate of Micahel Argento ■ Amber R. Long; Levy Konigsberg LLP; Lawrenceville, NJ, for Valarie Panzarella, Estate of Micahel Argento

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Sean Fitzgerald; PG; Geology; Winston-Salem, NC called by: Moshe Maimon, Robert G. Stevens, Amber R. Long ■ Michael Cummings; M.D.; Tobacco; Charleston, SC called by: Moshe Maimon, Robert G. Stevens, Amber R. Long ■ Jacqueline Moline; M.D.; Occupational Medicine; Hempstead, NY called by: Moshe Maimon, Robert G. Stevens, Amber R. Long

Defendant(s):

Shulton Inc., 

R. J. Reynolds, 

Scotts Co. LLC, 

American Talc Co., 

Proctor & Gamble Co., 

Wyeth Holdings Corp., 

Lorillard Tobacco Co., 

Brenntag North America, 

RT Vanderbilt Co. Inc., 

Hollingsworth & Vose Co., 

Charles B. Chrystal Co. Inc., 

Whittaker Clark & Daniels Inc., 

Vornado Realty Trust (Two Guys)

Defense Attorney(s):

Stephen J. DeFeo; Brown & Connery, LLP; Westmont, NJ, for Lorillard Tobacco Co., Hollingsworth & Vose Co. ■ Ricardo G. Cedillo; Davis, Cedillo & Mendoza; San Antono, TX, for R. J. Reynolds ■ Michael L. Lazarus; CNA Litigation Coverage Group; Cranbury, NJ, for Whittaker Clark & Daniels Inc. ■ Sean X. Kelly; Marks, O'Neill, O'Brien, Doherty & Kelly, P.C.; Cherry Hill, NJ, for American Talc Co. ■ Christopher E. Martin; Morrison Mahoney LLP|; Parsippany, NJ, for Charles B. Chrystal Co. Inc. ■ James E. Berger; Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P.; Kansas City, MO, for Hollingsworth & Vose Co. ■ Steven A. Weiner; O´Toole Fernandez Weiner Van Lieu, LLC; Verona, NJ, for RT Vanderbilt Co. Inc. ■ Alan I. Dunst; Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas, L.L.P.; New Brunswick, NJ, for Whittaker Clark & Daniels Inc. ■ Debra M. Perry; McCarter & English; Newark, NJ, for Scotts Co. LLC ■ Joshua S. Lichtenstein; O´Toole Fernandez Weiner Van Lieu, LLC; Verona, NJ, for Vornado Realty Trust (Two Guys) ■ Suzanne Teeven; Hughes Hubbard & Reed; Kansas City, MO, for Hollingsworth & Vose Co. ■ Kathleen Jeanetta; Hughes Hubbard & Reed; Kansas City, MO, for Hollingsworth & Vose Co. ■ Sally Merriam; Hughes Hubbard & Reed; for Hollingsworth & Vose Co. ■ Christopher P. DePhillips; Gibbons P.C.; Newark, NJ, for Wyeth Holdings Corp. ■ Kristen M. Mykulak; Parker Ibrahim & Berg LLC; Philadelphia, PA, for Brenntag North America ■ Joshua Lichenstein; O'Toole Fernandez Weiner Van Lieu, LLC; Verona, NJ, for Vornado Realty Trust (Two Guys) ■ Daniel R. Kuszmerski; Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas, LLP; New Brunswick, NJ, for Whittaker Clark & Daniels Inc. ■ Ronald E. Hurst; Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads; Philadelphia, PA, for Brenntag North America ■ William A. Cooney; New York, NY, for Vornado Realty Trust (Two Guys)

Defendant Expert(s):

Alan Segrave; Geology; Kennesaw, GA called by: Alan I. Dunst, Daniel R. Kuszmerski ■ Kevin Reinert; Environmental Sciences; Greensboro, NC called by: James E. Berger, Suzanne Teeven ■ Melvin First; Industrial Hygiene; Cambridge, MA called by: James E. Berger, Suzanne Teeven ■ Victor Roggli; Pathology; Durham, NC called by: James E. Berger, Suzanne Teeven ■ William Hinds; Environmental Safety; Los Angeles, CA called by: James E. Berger, Suzanne Teeven

Facts:

On Nov. 7, 2011, Michael Argento was diagnosed with mesothelioma, and died from the disease on Jan. 2, 2013, at the age of 78. Valerie Panzarella, as representative of her father's estate, pursued a wrongful death lawsuit sounding in products liability against various defendants that she contended contributed to Argento's mesothelioma through asbestos exposure. The lawsuit claimed that Argento's mesothelioma and resulting death were caused by smoking Kent cigarettes when they had an asbestos-containing filter; from exposure to asbestos-contaminated lawn fertilizer; and from exposure to asbestos-containing talc while he worked at a factory that manufactured cosmetic products. Panzarella also claimed Argento was exposed to asbestos-containing insulation while working at a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, and exposure to asbestos-containing joint compound. All of the 13 defendants were dismissed, except for Lorillard Tobacco Co., Hollingsworth & Vose Co., and Whittaker Clark & Daniels Inc. The case against Lorillard and Hollingsworth & Vose included claims for failure to warn and design defect for the inclusion of asbestos in the filters of Kent cigarettes. Panzarella claimed that Argento smoked Kent filtered cigarettes at some point between March 1952 and May 1956. During that time, Lorillard manufactured, marketed, and sold the cigarettes with a filter that contained asbestos, among other components. Hollingsworth & Vose supplied Lorillard with the materials used in the filters. In her claim against Whittaker Clark, Panzarella alleged failure to warn, based on the allegation that the talc it supplied was contaminated with asbestos. Lorillard and Hollingsworth & Vose argued that Argento did not smoke Kent cigarettes during the limited time there was asbestos in the filter; that the use of asbestos in the filter material was consistent with the state of the art at the time; that any danger of asbestos exposure was not known before the 1960s; and that the filters did not release a significant amount of asbestos, if any, when smoked. Lorillard further noted that it discontinued the asbestos-containing filter because of consumer dissatisfaction with the product, manufacturing inefficiency, and development of a better alternative filter. Whittaker Clark maintained that Argento never came into contact with any talc supplied by the company, and that the talc that was supplied was not contaminated with asbestos; therefore, the company had no duty warn.

Injury:

Argento died from mesothelioma at the age of 78. He was retired at the time of his death. He had last worked as a maintenance foreman at a healthcare company. He was survived by three adult children.

Result:

The jury returned a defense verdict for the three defendants that went to trial. The jury found that Argento's estate had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence the failure to warn claims against all defendants. The jury also found that plaintiff failed to prove the design defect claim against Lorillard and Hollingsworth & Vose.

Trial Information:

Judge:

Ana C. Viscomi

Trial Length:

2  months

Trial Deliberations:

4.75  hours

Jury Vote:

8-0 liability Whittaker Clark. 6-2 liability Tobacco Defendants

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel. Defense counsel declined to contribute.