A Florida jury has found Union Carbide Corporation liable for a former drywall worker's asbestosis. Yves Lagueux, 52, was awarded $34,000 for past pain and suffering and another $1.76 million for anticipated pain and suffering.
Lagueux worked as a drywall finisher from 1969 to 1978, first in Connecticut and then in Florida. His attorney, David Jagolinzer, says Lagueux inhaled asbestos fibers while sanding hardened joint compound that contained Calidria asbestos mined by Union Carbide.
Doctors diagnosed Lagueux with asbestosis in 2000. The condition is caused by asbestos exposure and induces shortness of breath and lung scarring, symptoms that worsen over time.
"It's about time a company like Union Carbide was forced to take responsibility," says Jagolinzer, of the Miami firm Ferraro and Associates. "They've caused pain and suffering not only in this gentleman but in thousands of others nationwide."
Union Carbide spokesman John Musser says the company, a Dow Chemical subsidiary, plans to appeal.
"We still contend that there really isn't any evidence to show that Mr. Lagueux had an asbestos-related disease or that he was exposed to any material produced by Union Carbide," Musser says.
Jagolinzer was not entirely pleased with the decision either. The jury determined Carbide, the sole defendant, was only liable for 30% ($540,000) of the award.
Manufacturer Johns Manville and defunct asbestos distributor Philip Carey were also each saddled with 30% of the liability for their part in processing and distributing Carbide's raw asbestos. The jury held Georgia-Pacific accountable for 10% of the damages for selling the finished joint compound.
Calling the liability split "a mistake of law," Jagolinzer says Lagueux's counsel will appeal the decision. "The liability was clear," Jagolinzer says, adding the distribution of liability "won't hold up" in an appeal.
The Lagueux verdict marks the first time Union Carbide was ordered to pay damages in a case related to Calidria products. Union Carbide mined Calidria, a unique type of asbestos, until 1985. Carbide marketed Calidria as a safe asbestos alternative, and manufacturers used it in a variety of products.
Last October, a West Virginia jury found Carbide liable in a massive Calidria-related class action suit. However, a second trial phase is required to determine whether Carbide must compensate any of the 2,000 plaintiffs. Those hearings are scheduled to begin this year. Carbide's Musser says the first phase of the West Virginia trial provided significant grounds for appeal.