Earlier this year, a state supreme court struck down the damages award in an asbestos lawsuit, finding that the widow of a deceased Navy seaman should not be compensated for her husband’s pain and suffering and for her own loss of society. Now, the same court has reinstated the portion of the damages awarded for pain and suffering, finding that the federal Jones Act permits such an award.
The deceased naval worker filed his asbestos lawsuit against 23 defendants, alleging that he had been exposed to asbestos fibers and dust that were contained in products manufactured by the companies. As a result of that asbestos exposure, the lawsuit claimed, he contracted mesothelioma. The naval worker succumbed to that disease before the suit made it to trial, and his widow, as the executor of his estate, revived the lawsuit as a wrongful death action.
The widow ultimately reached settlements with 22 of the defendants, leaving only John Crane Inc. fighting the lawsuit. When the case went to trial, the jury awarded the widow $2 million for her husband’s pain and suffering, $1.15 million for her loss of society, $2.5 million for the loss of her husband’s income and about $325,000 for his medical and funeral expenses. The damages were apportioned between John Crane and one other defendant company named in the suit.
In March, the state supreme court vacated the pain and suffering and loss of society awards. After the widow asked the court to rehear the case, however, the justices re-awarded the damages for pain and suffering. In its decision, the court cited the Jones Act, stating that the law “permits recovery for the losses suffered during a decedent seaman’s lifetime…including pre-death pain and suffering.”
Source: Legal Newsline, “Va. SC reinstates $2M pre-death suffering award in asbestos case,” John O’Brien, Sept. 25, 2012