Jury awards woman $200 million in asbestos case

A jury awarded a woman more than $200 million after it found that her rare form of cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos from washing her husband's contaminated work-clothes.

A Superior Court jury found this week that Rhoda Evans' mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos dust from CertainTeed asbestos cement water pipes, said attorney Larry Gornick of Levin Simes Kaiser & Gornick LLP, which represented the Evans family.

In addition to $8.8 million in compensatory damages to be paid by DWP and CertainTeed, the jury agreed late Thursday to also levy $200 million in punitive damages against CertainTeed, the attorney said.

Calls for comment to representatives of CertainTeed and DWP were not immediately returned.

The next step in the lawsuit before Superior Court Judge Conrad R. Aragon is a series of motions to be filed by both sides, Gornick said.

Aragon will decide on any award amount to be paid, which is expected to be reduced, Levin said.

"It is our hope that the damages awarded will relieve some of Rhoda's suffering, as well as the burden of her medical expenses so that her life will be prolonged and she can continue to care and provide for her young granddaughter,'' Levin said, adding that the 7-year-old girl was orphaned a few
years ago when Rhoda's own daughter died of complications from juvenile onset diabetes.

"We also hope that the punitive damage award will serve to make the community safer by making product manufacturers think twice before concealing dangerous characteristics of their products.'' he said.

The case stems from Bobby Evans' employment with DWP from 1974 to 1998.

As part of his job, Gornick said, Evans was routinely exposed to asbestos while working with pipes manufactured by CertainTeed, a Valley Forge, Penn.-based manufacturer of building materials.

Gornick said the jury found CertainTeed had knowledge that asbestos caused cancer in the early 1960s. However, the company continued to manufacture the asbestos pipes and did not place a cancer warning on them until 1985, the lawyer said.

"CertainTeed was fully aware that its products contained cancer-causing asbestos, but chose not to warn about the risk for decades, said another plaintiff attorney, William Levin.

The jury found CertainTeed liable for punitive damages, for pain and suffering, and for loss of future earnings and medical expenses, Gornick said.

After Evans retired from the DWP, the couple, who are now in their late 60s, relocated to North Carolina.

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