On November 5, 2004, a Niagara County jury delivered a stunning verdict against two asbestos companies held responsible for the mesothelioma cancer of a retired employee of the Ashland Oil Refinery in Tonawanda, New York. The plaintiff had been employed at the refinery for forty years until he retired in 1983. During most of his employment, he was exposed to asbestos dust from the application and removal of asbestos-containing gaskets manufactured by Garlock Inc. and from the application and removal of asbestos-containing insulation sold and distributed by Niagara Insulations, Inc.
After a two week-long trial, the jury awarded damages in the amount of $3,750,000 against Garlock Inc. and Niagara Insulations, Inc. The jury assigned sixty percent of the blame to Garlock Inc. and forty percent to Niagara Insulations, Inc. The case was marked by dramatic testimony from the plaintiff who described his working conditions and the effect that the disease was having on his wife and family. Several co-workers also testified.
It was gratifying to see the plaintiff’s fellow employees of many years take the witness stand and speak the truth about the hazardous conditions under which they worked. They were unaware, at the time, of the deadly nature of exposure to airborne asbestos dust, and they patiently explained, under frequently hostile questioning from lawyers for the defendants, how they worked day after day with dangerous products about which no warning was ever given.
Several expert witnesses testified on behalf of the plaintiff, including medical doctors. Their testimony was impressive and carefully documented. The plaintiff and his wife of fifty years were represented at trial by Lipsitz & Ponterio attorneys Michael A. Ponterio and John P. Comerford. In keeping with the general inability of the asbestos companies to admit that they were wrong, Garlock, Inc. has appealed from the verdict. Although it may take several months or longer for the appeal to be heard and decided, we are confident that justice will prevail and the Court’s judgment will be upheld.