Owens-Corning ordered to pay $16 million in asbestos suit

April 17, 1997|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore Circuit Court jury yesterday ordered the Owens-Corning Corp. to pay more than $16 million to a Savannah, Ga., man who suffers from mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

James Hammond, 41, a father of five, was exposed to asbestos in 1975 when he was in the Navy and served aboard the USS Nimitz, an aircraft carrier, said his attorney, Shepard A. Hoffman of Baltimore.

Hammond installed a 600-foot communications cable in the crawl space along a corridor in the aircraft carrier over a two-month period. During the installation, he had to remove some of the asbestos-lined insulation that was covering pipes in the crawl space. He inhaled some of the insulation. The award, which a jury delivered after deliberating for two hours, appears to be the first case in which the exposure took place after the company stopped manufacturing asbestos in 1972, Hoffman said.

"They tried to take the position in this trial that as of the date they stopped manufacturing these products, they could wash their hands of responsibility, turn their backs on the product and say, 'Now it's someone else's problem,' " Hoffman said.

Attempts to reach Baltimore attorney Gregory Lockwood, who represented Owens-Corning, were not successful.

The case began about a month ago before Judge Edward J. Angeletti with six plaintiffs, but five of them reached settlements before the last case went to the jury.

The jury awarded Hammond $1.286 million in economic damages because of the disease, which was diagnosed in 1995. That amount was agreed to by the plaintiff and Owens-Corning, Hoffman said.

Jurors also awarded Hoffman $15 million for pain and suffering.

"The issue for the jury was what kind of compensation was owed for the terrible implications and ramifications of this disease, both physically, mentally and emotionally for the years that he's going to have to deal with it," Hoffman said.

The case was tried in Maryland because one of the companies that was originally named in the lawsuit was based in this state and because Hammond received most of his medical treatment at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Hoffman said.

Pub Date: 4/17/97

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