Painter Awarded $11 Million in Case Involving Chrysotile Joint Compound

March 25, 2010 – Media Coverage

DALLAS -- A Texas jury has awarded a former painter nearly $11 million for injuries he claimed were a result of exposure to asbestos in joint compound, texture and block filler products. Walker v. Bondex International, No. 2009-52642/09-08930-I (Texas 160th Jud. Dist. Ct., Dallas Cty.).

The 160th Judicial District Court for Dallas County jury reached the verdict on March 22 after a trial presided over by Judge Jim Jordan, sources told HarrisMartin.

Plaintiffs Vernon and Patsy Walker argued that Vernon Walker's work as a painter exposed him to asbestos-containing drywall joint compounds, texture products and block fillers. Vernon Walker later developed mesothelioma, which the plaintiffs claimed was a direct result of his exposure to asbestos in the defendants' products.

During trial, the defendants contended that exposure to chrysotile asbestos, including Calidria, cannot cause mesothelioma. Instead, the defendants claimed that Walker's mesothelioma was caused by amphibole exposure that occurred when he worked on construction projects. In the alternative, the defendants suggested that Walker's illness was of an idiopathic nature. In support of their arguments, the defendants pointed to Walker's "document memory deficits," which they claimed made his testimony unreliable.

Bondex International, Union Carbide Corp., Kelly-Moore, Georgia-Pacific, Murco Wall Products and Welco Manufacturing Co. were among the defendants remaining at the start of trial, sources said. Georgia-Pacific reached a settlement agreement during opening statements, while Kelly-Moore and Union Carbide Corp. reached resolutions with the plaintiffs during the trial and closing statements, respectively.

Welco was dismissed on directed verdict, sources said. At the time of the verdict, Bondex and Murco were remaining.

The jury awarded a total of $10,855,000.00 in damages, with $8,355,000.00 going to Vernon Walker and $2.5 million apportioned to his wife, Patsy.

The jury allocated 40 percent liability to Union Carbide; 20 percent to Kelly-Moore; 20 percent to Georgia-Pacific; 10 percent to Bondex; and 5 percent each to Carey Canadian and Johns Manville.

The jury did not apportion any liability to Murco Wall Products.

Testifying on behalf of the plaintiffs were Dr. Richard Lemen, epidemiology; Dr. William Longo, materials science; and Samuel Hammar, M.D.

Testifying on behalf of the defendants were Alan Feingold, M.D., Dr. Allen Gibbs, M.D., and Dr. Francisco Perez, via deposition.

Sources told HarrisMartin that defense motions for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiffs could not sufficiently establish a causal link between chrysotile asbestos-containing joint compound products and mesothelioma were denied prior to trial, as were motions for a directed verdict. In the motions, the defendants pointed to the recent Texas appellate court decision, Smith v. Kelly-Moore Paint Co., in which the court determined that the state's dose quantification standard was not limited to asbestosis cases. [No. 2-08-198-CV, Texas Second Dist Ct. App.]. For more on the Smith decision, please see "Texas Appellate Court: Borg-Warner Applies to Mesothelioma Cases," in the March 2010 issue of COLUMNS-Asbestos.

Counsel for the plaintiffs was John Langdoc of Baron & Budd in Dallas.

Bondex was represented by T. Lynn Walden and Angelea Kneeland of Walden Reynard in Beaumont, Texas.

Union Carbide was represented by Gary Elliston and Todd Suddleson of Dehay Elliston in Dallas.

Counsel for Kelly Moore were Bill Fountain of Hawkins Parnell & Young in Austin.

Murco was represented Gregory L. Deans and Katherine H. Stepp of Deans Lyons in Dallas.

Counsel for Welco was George P. Pappas and Steven Moore of Sheehy, Ware & Pappas, P.C., in Houston.

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