Union Carbide, GP Hit With $22M Asbestos Verdict

September 22, 2011 – Media Coverage

Law360, New York (September 22, 2011, 3:13 PM EDT) -- A Florida jury last week awarded $21.6 million to the family of a 61-year-old man who claimed he contracted mesothelioma after handling a Georgia-Pacific LLC joint compound made with Union Carbide Corp. asbestos.

Jurors found Union Carbide and Georgia-Pacific liable Sept. 16 for negligently exposing Charles Garrison to dangerous levels of asbestos that gave him the rare form of cancer.

Garrison alleged he was exposed to asbestos between 1974 and 1975 while using a Georgia-Pacific joint compound that didn’t contain warning labels stating it contained asbestos. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2008.

The jury assigned Union Carbide 80 percent of fault in Garrison’s case, while laying 20 percent on Georgia-Pacific. A third company, Phillip Cary Manufacturing Corp., wasn’t liable, it found. The jury awarded Garrison $400,000 for past suffering, $16 million for future suffering, $246,000 for medical expenses and $4 million in damages to Garrison’s wife.

“It is remarkable to me that Union Carbide did not attempt to try to settle this case rather than put the Garrisons through more than two weeks of intense trial,” Juan Bauta of The Ferraro Law Firm, who represents the plaintiffs, said.

Counsel for Union Carbide and Georgia-Pacific did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Garrison and his wife filed suit in March 2010, alleging six companies, including Union Carbide and Georgia-Pacific, were negligent in their manufacturing and marketing of asbestos products that caused him to develop cancer.

The verdict came the same day a Montana court approved a $43 million settlement between the state and more than 1,100 victims of asbestos-related diseases who claimed officials had failed to warn them about the dangers of living near a former W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite mine.

Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Montana’s First Judicial District Court green-lighted the settlement, which will compensate Libby, Mont., residents who were exposed to the mine’s asbestos-laden airborne dust, according to newspaper Daily Inter Lake.

A group of residents including several former miners who were diagnosed with asbestos diseases sued the state for negligence in 2001, alleging it failed to protect them and their families from the hazards associated with working in and living near the mine. The district court originally threw out their claims, but the Montana Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter in 2004.

Garrison is represented in the instant suit by Juan Bauta and Case Dam of The Ferraro Law Firm.

Union Carbide and Georgia-Pacific are represented by Evelyn Fletcher Davis of Hawkins Parnell & Young.

The case is Garrison et al. v. Union Carbide Corp. et al., case number 10-12353, in the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida.