Philadelphia Supreme Court Affirms Trial Judgment in Asbestos Case

The Supreme Court of Philadelphia has affirmed a jury’s decision in an asbestos case after both the plaintiffs and the defendant appealed the verdict, which awarded $1 million to a mesothelioma victim.

The plaintiffs, Richard and Joyce Rost, appealed the trial court’s jury instructions, claiming instructions on the jury sheet confused the jury and led to lesser compensation than was deserved. The $1 million judgment breaks down to $844,800 to Mr. Rost for damages, and $150,000 to Mrs. Rost for loss of consortium.

The defendant, Ford Motor Company, appealed the court’s denial of its post-trial motion for judgment. Ford is the last remaining defendant in the Rosts’ asbestos suit. The other defendants – General Electric, Westinghouse, and Ingersoll Rand – all previously settled.

In his testimony, Mr. Rost stated that he had briefly worked at a Ford dealership in 1950, and that approximately 90% of the vehicles the dealership serviced were Fords. Between 1945 and 1950, he claimed, Ford brakes and clutches were 40-60% asbestos in weight. During Mr. Rost’s time at Ford, other mechanics were responsible for sanding brakes, removing break drums, and fixing clutches, all of which inadvertently released hazardous asbestos fibers into the air supply.

As part of its appeal, Ford argued that the plaintiffs should be required to provide an expert opinion that Mr. Rost was exposed to Ford products with a sufficient amount of asbestos to cause mesothelioma. The company pointed out the fact that Mr. Rost had been exposed to asbestos on a number of occasions and in various settings, and claimed that without expert opinion, it was impossible to determine Ford’s portion of the responsibility.

Judge Jack Panella, however, cited decisions in two previous asbestos cases, Betz and Gregg, both of which refuted Ford’s argument. “Clearly, neither of these opinions required the dismissal of the plaintiff’s cause of action merely due to the problems with the plaintiff’s expert’s opinion on causation,” he said.

As for the Rosts’ appeal, the court agreed that language on the jury sheet may have led to some confusion, but ultimately, felt it was not enough to “vitiate the adequacy and clarity of the jury charge.”

“In summary, we conclude that none of the issues raised by either party merit relief on appeal. As such, we affirm the judgment entered by the trial court,” Panella said.

Comments are closed.