$322 Million Award Comes As Largest Asbestos Verdict

(July 25, 2011)

Thomas Brown developed asbestos mixing drilling mud while working on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Brown brought Union Carbide and Chevron Phillips Chemical to court, alleging that they knew of the dangers of asbestos but failed to warn him.

He received a whopping $322 million verdict, which comes as the largest asbestos verdict ever! However this mammoth award may be in jeopardy after the case was put on hold while the Mississippi Supreme Court considers Union Carbide Corp.’s allegations. They claim that the trial judge had a conflict of interest and it affected the outcome of this case.

Judge Eddie Bowen should have been removed from the case, Union Carbide claims, since his father also suffers from asbestosis. They believe this fact has lead to an unfair trial because of his bias.

Chief Justice William L. Waller Jr. decided to stop proceedings until these allegations are resolved, but even if the verdict stands, a Mississippi punitive-damages cap would drastically reduce the award at least $260 million.

Union Carbide and Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. were joined in suit under Dow Chemical Co. (DOW), and Chevron Phillips is a joint venture of Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips (COP).

The $322 million verdict included $300 million in punitive damages, to be equally split between both Union Carbide and Chevron Phillips Chemical. As mentioned above, the award would be reduced due to Mississippi law that caps punitive damages at $20 million per defendant, or in this case, $40 million total.

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