Court overturns asbestos award against Ford Appellate judges uphold verdict in similar case

January 09, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The state's intermediate appellate court overturned yesterday one of two multimillion-dollar asbestos awards against Ford Motor Co., which used brake components that contained the cancer-causing material.

The three-judge panel of the Court of Special Appeals said the "evidence simply was too thin" to prove that mechanic Nollie P. Wood Sr. regularly and often worked where Ford brake and clutch products were used. The action reversed the verdict and a $6.3 million award to his widow.

The judges upheld the companion verdict and award of $8 million to the widow of Keith K. Grewe Sr.

The Baltimore men were mechanics who died of mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused mostly by exposure to asbestos. Wood was 71 when he died in 1990. Grewe was 55 at his death 1993.

The cases had been consolidated for a trial in Baltimore Circuit Court that lasted nearly a month. The June 1996 award marked the first time that the automaker had been found responsible for asbestos exposure from its brake linings.

The jury verdict, which lawyers said told manufacturers that they are considered responsible for products they distribute, stunned the industry.

Grewe's survivors were relieved that their verdict stood, but Gary J. Ignatowski, the family's lawyer, said, "Obviously this doesn't take the place of a young man who died."

"We feel bad for the Wood family," said Ignatowski.

Lawyers for the Wood family and Ford could not be reached.

Pub Date: 1/09/98

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