Verdict in Georgia Pacific Asbestos Case Affirmed in Texas Supreme Court

The Texas Supreme Court has affirmed an appeals court ruling in an asbestos case that ended in a take-nothing judgment for the plaintiffs – Helen Donnahoe, Kyle Anthony Bostic, and Susan Elaine Bostic, who was acting as the personal representative of the heirs and estate of Timothy Shaw Bostic, a mesothelioma victim who passed away in 2003.

Mr. Bostic was diagnosed with the disease in 2002, when he was 40 years old. Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma, and Mr. Bostic came into contact with asbestos-containing drywall joint compound numerous times while working with his father as a teenager. The compound was manufactured by Georgia Pacific, the defendant in the case.

The plaintiffs were initially awarded $11 million in damages in 2006, at which time Georgia Pacific was found to be 75% liable for Mr. Bostic’s injury. The defendant appealed the ruling, and the court of appeals concluded that there had been insufficient evidence to prove causation.

The plaintiffs appealed the decision, but the Texas Supreme Court sided with the court of appeals. Justice Don R. Willett specifically dismissed the “every exposure” theory, which holds that any exposure to asbestos can result in the development of mesothelioma. Willett explained that proof of exposure was not enough to “result in automatic liability,” alluding to the plaintiffs’ need to show that an unsafe amount of exposure occurred.

“If any exposure at all were sufficient to cause mesothelioma,” he added, “everyone would suffer from it, or at least be at risk of contracting the disease.”

Speaking for the court, Willett explained the panel’s decision by highlighting the “every exposure” theory’s flaw. “We fail to see how the theory can, as a matter of logic, exclude higher than normal background levels as the cause of the plaintiff’s disease, but accept that any exposure from an individual defendant, no matter how small, should be accepted as a cause in face of the disease.”

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