Many individuals who worked in California shipyards have developed mesothelioma due to their exposure to asbestos products. The U.S. Navy mandated the use of asbestos products in its ships and shipyards until the 1980s because asbestos can make materials heat-resistant. Asbestos was used in a variety of ship parts, including gaskets, insulation and boilers.
One former boiler operator recently won $20 million in an asbestos product liability case. The 62-year-old boiler operator worked for the U.S. Navy for 30 years and was exposed to asbestos repeatedly from a variety of products. The boiler operator eventually developed mesothelioma and sued several companies, including an asbestos gasket manufacturer.
The gasket manufacturer took the case to trial because it contended that its gaskets and packing were made with encapsulated chrysotile asbestos, also known as "white asbestos." Chrysotile asbestos is the most common type of asbestos used in the United States and can cause mesothelioma if its fibers become airborne and are inhaled. The manufacturer alleged that its products did not release sufficient amounts of asbestos to increase the boiler operator's risk for developing cancer.
A jury rejected the manufacturer's claims and returned a damage award in favor of the boiler operator. The jury also awarded $1.05 million to the boiler operator's wife for her loss of consortium claim.
Loss of consortium claims are common in mesothelioma litigation. A loss of consortium claim is brought by a married individual whose spouse is injured by the negligent or intentional acts of a third party. The underlying theory in a loss of consortium claim is that the negligent act of a third party also harmed the injured person's partner by impairing the quality of a marriage. Common allegations in a loss of consortium claim are that the negligent act of a third party caused the loss of a spouse's services, sexual relations or companionship.
Mesothelioma is a devastating disease that often proves to be fatal. Spouses who have to care for their sick loved ones are deprived of the normal quality of their marital relationship and a loss of consortium claim is a way for spouses to hold asbestos manufacturers accountable for the damage that their products have caused.
In the case of the California boiler operator, his wife had to take care of him through the intense treatments he underwent for his mesothelioma. The lawsuit says that the boiler operator underwent multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, targeted cryoablation therapy and radiation therapy, among other things. The jury's loss of consortium award was an acknowledgement of the severe impact that the mesothelioma treatments had on the boiler operator's wife and the fact that intensive cancer treatment harmed the normal quality of a marital relationship.