BUFFALO, NEW YORK: On Friday, October 9, 2015, State Supreme Court Justice Deborah A. Chimes issued her decision and verdict in the case of a former factory worker suffering from malignant mesothelioma. The Court heard the case of Joseph Muir without a jury, because the defendant asbestos mining company refused to appear at trial and defend itself, despite having been provided on multiple occasions with notice of the proceedings.
The Court’s verdict awarded the plaintiff over $5.6 million, more than half of which was for medical expenses and lost income. Since July 2014, the plaintiff’s cancer has spread, and he has had to endure chemotherapy and more than a dozen surgical procedures, causing him to experience significant and unremitting pain and suffering.
The plaintiff, Joseph Muir, and his wife reside in Connecticut, where he is employed as an engineer and project manager for General Dynamics Corporation. Muir, 58, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a fatal cancer, in July 2014. During the summers of 1976 and 1977, he was employed at Durez Plastics in North Tonawanda. Muir’s father was a career employee at Durez. The defendant, Hedman Resources, Limited, sold millions of pounds of raw asbestos to Durez for use in the manufacture of plastic molding compound subsequently sold to other plastics manufacturers throughout the country. In addition to being exposed to the defendant’s raw asbestos while working at Durez as summer help, the plaintiff was exposed to the defendant’s raw asbestos brought home on his father’s clothing.
The defendant has been sued in separate actions over the course of the past thirty years for its major role in exposing Durez workers to its raw asbestos without providing warnings of the hazards of working with the deadly fiber. Hedman had ceased mining operations many years ago and had no assets, except for insurance policies covering it for personal injury claims. In 2012, its CEO entered into a series of agreements with its liability insurers under which the insurance companies, some of the largest in the world, paid approximately six million dollars to be released from their continuing obligations to defend the company and pay claims, like Joseph Muir’s. According to the attorneys for the plaintiff at the Buffalo law firm of Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford, LLC, these insurance companies purportedly settled their coverage obligations to the defendant in order to escape their responsibility for paying future claims projected to reach many millions of dollars over the next thirty years. The defendant, instead of paying the $6 million dollars it received from the carriers to workers injured by its asbestos, paid out all of the money for unrelated business expenses.
Plaintiff’s trial attorney, Michael A. Ponterio, stated that, “Because of the unsavory agreements reached between Hedman and its insurers, the Muir family, in order to collect the Court’s verdict, must now bring a separate lawsuit directly against the insurance companies. These companies connived with Hedman’s CEO to put a few million dollars in his pocket in exchange for escaping from their obligations to Joseph Muir and other men and women who worked at Durez and who are likely to develop mesothelioma in the future. We estimate the limits of the insurance carriers’ liability to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. We intend to pursue them in a separate lawsuit to enforce the judgment for the money they now owe the Muir family, even if it takes us many years to do so.”
This case was filed in New York State Supreme Court for Erie County, Index No: 809307/2014.
About Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford, LLC:
Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford, LLC, is Committed to Asbestos Justice™. Established in 1995, the firm concentrates its practice in the areas of asbestos disease and lead poisoning litigation, medical malpractice, insurance liability, personal injury and worker’s compensation matters. The Firm has achieved thousands of settlements and numerous verdicts on behalf of its clients harmed by toxic substances. For more information, visit Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford’s website at www.lipsitzponterio.com.