New England Verdicts
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Suit argued insulation company concealed asbestos dangers
Middlesex County, Superior Court
other-fatigue; cancer-lung; cancer-chemotherapy; cancer-mesothelioma; cardiac-heart; pulmonary/respiratory-respiratory
Products Liability - Asbestos, Failure to Warn, Strict Liability, Breach of Warranty
Gerald Sylvestre and Marjorie Sylvestre v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.; Foster Wheeler Energy Corp.; Ford Motor Co.; Genuine Parts Co.; Hampden Automotive Sales Corp.; National Automotive Parts Association; P.T. Brakelining Co. Inc.; Ray Engineering Co.; New England Insulation Co.; P.S. Thorsen Co. of Mass.; Federal Mogul Asbestos Personal Injury Trust, as successor to Felt-Products Manufacturing Co.; Ingersoll-Rand Co.; John Crane Inc.; The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.; Crane Co., as successor to Cochrane Corp.; Union Carbide Corp.; Crane Co.; Flowserve US Inc., as successor to Rockwell Manufacturing Co., Edward Valves Inc., and Nordstrom Valves Inc.; Armstrong International Inc.; CBS Corp. f/k/a Viacom Inc., successor by merger CBS Corp. f/k/a Westinghouse Electric Corp.; General Electrical Co.; IMO Industries Inc., individually and as successor-in-interest to DeLaval Steam Turbine Co.; Enterprise Engine & Foundry Co.; Adel Precision Products Corp.; Rolls-Royce North America Inc.;, No. 15-7031
September 20, 2017
Gerald Sylvestre (Male, 70 Years),
Marjorie Sylvestre (Female, 70 Years)
Gary M. Paul; Waters Kraus & Paul, LLP; El Segundo, CA, for Gerald Sylvestre, Marjorie Sylvestre ■ Christopher L. Johnson; Waters Kraus & Paul (NO LLP); Dallas, TX, for Gerald Sylvestre, Marjorie Sylvestre ■ Andrew S. Wainwright; Thornton Law Firm LLP; Boston, MA, for Gerald Sylvestre, Marjorie Sylvestre ■ Andrea Marino Landry; Boston, MA, for Gerald Sylvestre, Marjorie Sylvestre ■ Susan M. Ulrich; Waters Kraus & Paul (NO LLP); El Segundo, CA, for Gerald Sylvestre, Marjorie Sylvestre
David Christiani; M.D.; Occupational Medicine; Boston, MA called by: Gary M. Paul, Christopher L. Johnson, Andrew S. Wainwright, Andrea Marino Landry ■ Michael Ellenbecker; Sc.D., C.I.H.; Industrial Hygiene; Lowell, MA called by: Gary M. Paul, Christopher L. Johnson, Andrew S. Wainwright, Andrea Marino Landry
F.W. Webb Co.,
Ford Motor Co.,
The Boeing Co.,
John Crane Inc.,
Flowserve US Inc.,
Genuine Parts Co.,
Eaton Aeroquip LLC,
The W.W. Henry Co.,
A.W. Chesterton Co.,
IMO Industries Inc.,
Ray Engineering Co.,
Union Carbide Corp.,
Transdigm Group Inc.,
Lockheed Martin Corp.,
General Electrical Co.,
Yuba Heat Transfer LLC,
P.S. Thorsen Co. of Mass.,
P.T. Brakelining Co. Inc.,
United Technologies Corp.,
New England Insulation Co.,
Foster Wheeler Energy Corp.,
Armstrong International Inc.,
Honeywell International Inc.,
Adel Precision Products Corp.,
Hampden Automotive Sales Corp.,
Rolls-Royce North America Inc.,
The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.,
Enterprise Engine & Foundry Co.,
Greene, Tweed Technologies Inc.,
Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.,
Diamond Power International Inc.,
Boeing Integrated Defense Systems,
National Automotive Parts Association,
Federal Mogul Asbestos Personal Injury Trust
None reported; for CBS Corp., Crane Co., URS Corp., Dana Corp., Henkel Corp., Palmetto LLC, F.W. Webb Co., Ford Motor Co., The Boeing Co., Transdigm Inc., John Crane Inc., Flowserve US Inc., Genuine Parts Co., Eaton Aeroquip LLC, Ingersoll-Rand Co., The W.W. Henry Co., A.W. Chesterton Co., IMO Industries Inc., Ray Engineering Co., Union Carbide Corp., Transdigm Group Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp., Parker-Hannifan Corp., General Electrical Co., Yuba Heat Transfer LLC, P.S. Thorsen Co. of Mass., P.T. Brakelining Co. Inc., United Technologies Corp., Foster Wheeler Energy Corp., Armstrong International Inc., Honeywell International Inc., Adel Precision Products Corp., Hampden Automotive Sales Corp., Rolls-Royce North America Inc., The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Enterprise Engine & Foundry Co., Greene, Tweed Technologies Inc., Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., Diamond Power International Inc., Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, National Automotive Parts Association, Federal Mogul Asbestos Personal Injury Trust ■ Christopher M. Tauro; Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP; Boston, MA, for New England Insulation Co. ■ Christopher E. Sanetti; Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP; Hartford, CT, for New England Insulation Co.
Resolute Management Inc. for New England Insulation Co.
From 1968 to 1976, plaintiff Gerald Sylvestre, in his mid-70s, worked as an equipment operator at a coal-powered plant in New Hampshire. His primary job was to monitor repair-equipment around the plant. Sylvestre claimed that, throughout his eight years at the plant, he was exposed to Kaylo brand insulation, which contained asbestos. The insulation had been distributed, removed, and installed by New England Insulation Co., and was used to cover piping, pumps, valves, and turbines at the power plant. In 2015, Sylvestre was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a fatal form of lung cancer, which he attributed to his asbestos exposure at the power plant. Sylvestre sued New England Insulation, alleging claims under a theory of products liability, including failure to warn and a breach of express and implied warranties of a safe product. He also alleged negligence and gross negligence, which was waived during trial. A number of other companies were originally named as defendants but the claims were either dismissed or concluded via dispositions involving undisclosed terms, prior to trial. Sylvestre's counsel argued that New England Insulation owed a duty to warn Sylvestre, and that it breached its duty. Owens Corning, the Kaylo manufacturer, provided warnings on its packaging about the dangers of asbestos exposure. However, the warnings were never passed on to Sylvestre and his co-workers by New England Insulation. They were never warned about staying away from the asbestos-containing insulation, and were never offered masks, respirators, or any other safety equipment while working around the product. Sylvestre and others had no choice to being in close proximity with the insulated equipment, because it was their job. One of Sylvestre's former plant co-workers testified that he had never been warned about the dangers of asbestos. Sylvestre's expert in industrial hygiene testified about the levels of exposure that would have caused his mesothelioma, and how asbestos fibers from the Kaylo insulation would have had become airborne and entered his respiratory system. The expert estimated that 10 to 100 fibers per cubic centimeter would have been emitted into the air in the presence of Sylvestre, who stood anywhere from three to 15 feet from the work the insulators were doing. Sylvestre's expert in occupational medicine testified about how asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma, and Sylvestre's exposure to the asbestos-laden insulation caused his cancer. New England Insulation's expert in industrial hygiene testified that the asbestos levels that Sylvestre had been exposed to were no higher than what the ordinary background level of asbestos a person is exposed to in the United States. The expert opined that Sylvestre's exposure was so low that it could not have caused his mesothelioma. New England Insulation's counsel maintained that, during the late '60s, early '70s of Sylvestre's tenure at the power plant, the hazards of asbestos had not been known. Moreover, it was Sylvestre's employer who was in the best position to warn and protect its workers.
Upon his diagnosis of mesothelioma, Sylvestre underwent an extrapleural pneumonectomy, in which the tumor on his right lung was scraped off. During the procedure, the lower lobe of the lung and diaphragm had to removed, and his diaphragm was replaced with an artificial one. Sylvestre also underwent a procedure to remove a tumor that had developed on the pericardium sac surrounding his heart. He underwent extensive chemotherapy that ended just before trial. He sought to recover approximately $1 million in past and future medical costs. Sylvestre's expert in occupational medicine testified that a person with mesothelioma only has about two years to live post-diagnosis. Sylvestre testified that he is weak and easily fatigued, which prevents him from walking far. He and his wife, who had been married more than 50 years, discussed his shortened life expectancy and how it will affect their family, which includes grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Sylvestre used to enjoy snowshoeing, but cannot participate anymore, because the cold is hard on his breathing. His favorite pastime was traveling with his wife, but since the illness they are unable to travel in the same capacity. Sylvestre sought damages for past and future pain and suffering Sylvestre's wife testified that she is afraid of the future and of being alone. She sought damages for her claim for loss of consortium. New England Insulation maintained that Sylvestre was in remission. Sylvestre's expert in occupational medicine testified that there is no such thing as being in remission of mesothelioma, as it is a fatal disease.
The jury found that New England Insulation owed a duty to Sylvestre and that the breach of its duty was a substantial contributing cause of Sylvestre's injury. According to the jury, New England Insulation supplied an asbestos-containing product. The company knew, or reasonably should have known at the time of the sale, that the asbestos-containing product presented an unreasonable risk of injury to persons like Sylvestre, who could be exposed to the product. Jurors found that New England Insulation's breach of warranty was a substantial contributing factor in causing Sylvestre's illness. Sylvestre and his wife were determined to receive $7,550,000.
Gerald Sylvestre: $3,000,000 Personal Injury: pain and suffering$3,000,000 Personal Injury: medical costs$50,000 Personal Injury: lost earnings; Marjorie Sylvestre: $1,500,000 Personal Injury: loss of consortium
Heidi E. Brieger
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs' counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls. The other defendants were not asked to contribute.