Exxon Gets Worker’s $17.5 Million Asbestos Verdict Tossed

Posted January 28, 2013 in Jury Awards Products Liability by

A pipeline running out to an oil tanker

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock

An appeals court has thrown out a $17.5 million jury verdict against Exxon won by a worker nearly two years ago.

Rubert “Bert” Minton was exposed to asbestos when he worked on 17 Exxon oil tankers as a supervisor for his employer, a shipbuilding company in Newport News, Va., for over a decade. He developed mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure that attacks the lung’s linings.

Minton and his wife, Linda, sued Exxon, arguing it knew about the dangers of asbestos because it took steps to protect its oil refinery workers as early as 1937, but it didn’t do the same for those who worked on its ships.

Exxon wanted to pin the blame on Minton’s employer, Newport News Shipbuilding, for not warning Minton about the risks of asbestos, but the judge who oversaw the trial didn’t allow Exxon to do so. Minton was not allowed to sue his employer because it has immunity under workers’ compensation laws.

Now, the state supreme court has thrown out the multimillion dollar award saying, that Exxon should have been allowed to show the jury evidence that the shipbuilder knew about the dangers of asbestos.

Attorney Robert Hatten

The Mintons’ attorney, Robert Hatten, of the law firm Patten, Wornom, Hatten & Diamonstein, said what the shipyard knew or didn’t know is “totally irrelevant” to whether Exxon is liable. He said he is ready to take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If he loses, he will have to try the case again. This time around, Bert Minton will not be there. He died 17 months after the first trial.

 

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