Mechanic's widow sues 14 firms $15 million sought in asbestos case

December 28, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

For 25 years, Nollie P. Wood Sr. worked with materials containing asbestos at his job as a mechanic.

Mr. Wood died in May 1990 after a long bout with mesothelioma, a fatal cancer linked to asbestos that attacks the lining of the lung or abdomen.

Now, Mr. Wood's widow, Rosanna G. Wood, is suing 14 corporations that she contends are responsible for his death. The 74-year-old Ellicott City woman is seeking $15 million in damages.

"Why did they let people around this stuff?" Mrs. Wood questioned. "Why weren't precautions taken? . . . He should have had protection.

In a suit filed in Howard Circuit Court on Nov. 27, Mrs. Wood contends that the companies were negligent in manufacturing asbestos or using the material in their products.

The 16-page suit states that the companies knew or should have known that exposure to asbestos causes serious or fatal illnesses, including the cancer that killed Mr. Wood.

"These actions and failures to act on the part of each defendant constituted malicious, intentional, willful and wanton misconduct with complete disregard for the safety and rights of others," the suit says.

The suit names two Baltimore companies as defendants -- Porter-Hayden Co. and MCIC Inc.

Other defendants include Allied-Signal Inc. of Morristown, N.J.; Armstrong World Industries of Lancaster, Pa.; Chrysler Corp. of Highland Park, Mich.; Dana Corp. of Toledo, Ohio; Ford Motor Co. of Dearborn, Mich.; GAF Corp. of Wayne, N.J.; Lear Siegler Inc. of Santa Monica, Calif.

The remaining defendants are Lear Siegler Diversified Holdings Corp. of Wilmington, Del.; Lear Siegler Management Services Corp. of Wilmington; Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp. of Toledo; Owens-Illinois Inc. of Toledo; and Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Co. of New York.

The suit lists nine other companies as potential defendants, but they are protected by federal bankruptcy laws.

Louis G. Close Jr., a Baltimore attorney who represents Porter-Hayden, could not be reached for comment. Officials at MCIC, formerly known as McCormick Asbestos Co., also could not be reached.

The Woods, married for 44 years, lived in the 3700 block of Font Hill Drive. They have one son.

Mr. Wood, who died at age 72, worked as a mechanic at the U.S. xTC Postal Service in Baltimore between 1948 and 1973, his wife said. His job involved regularly changing brakes that contained asbestos for postal trucks, she said.

However, the defendants failed to take "reasonable precautions" warn Mr. Wood of the dangers he was exposed to by working with equipment containing asbestos, the suit says.

In addition, the companies failed to show Mr. Wood how to properly handle asbestos so he would not be harmed by the material, the suit says.

The suit also contends that the companies did not remove asbestos-laden products from the market quickly enough because of the danger it poses.

The Wood suit is one of many cases filed against companies that manufacture asbestos or use the material in their products.

The Baltimore Circuit Court oversaw the nation's largest asbestos personal-injury suit, which involved more than 8,000 plaintiffs. In August, a jury assessed millions of dollars in damages against four asbestos companies.

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