Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Verdict unchanged in Pennsylvania asbestos exposure lawsuit

The testimony of experts in Allegheny County civil cases can be beneficial to plaintiffs or defendants. However, the true purpose for using an expert's opinion at trial is to increase the jury's understanding of specialized subjects relevant to the case. Cornell University's Legal Information Institute states expert opinions must be drawn from data and facts, acknowledged as reliable by other experts in the same field.

A Pennsylvania appellate court recently questioned a defendant's expert testimony while deciding an asbestos exposure case. A three-judge Superior Court panel felt Ford Motor Company's two experts provided inconsistent testimony and, in one instance, an opinion without adequate backing from the scientific community. On the other hand, the panel determined the plaintiff's experts satisfactorily supported a lower court ruling.

The legal claim involved a mesothelioma victim who claimed he was exposed to asbestos at two jobs starting in the 1950s -- first as an auto mechanic at a Ford car dealership and later as a pump operator at Metropolitan Edison. The 2009 lawsuit was heard by a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in 2011. The verdict was in the plaintiffs' favor.

The initial roster of defendants included several companies related to the former mechanic's employment. All but Ford agreed to settle before trial. The appellate court ruled the lower court's $1 million judgment should stand.

During trial, the jury learned the mesothelioma victim worked repeatedly with products containing asbestos. The mechanic inhaled asbestos dust from sanded brake drums. The man was exposed to asbestos a second time over several years while working with pumps and turbines.

The plaintiffs' experts convinced the panel that the employers and asbestos product makers were responsible for the man's deadly health condition. Civil claims for asbestos-related diseases often occur decades after exposure, since the conditions can take that long to develop. However, injured plaintiffs are encouraged to seek legal advice as soon as exposure is suspected.

Source: Legal Newsline, "Pa. appellate court affirms $1M jury verdict, cites inconsistencies in defense expert opinions" Heather Isringhausen Gvillo, May. 23, 2014

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