An appeals court in West Palm Beach FL has overturned an $8 million verdict in an asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuit that was filed against RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company and Crane Company. The appeals court found that a lower trial court should not have let jurors listen to testimony from an expert whose testimony did not have sufficient factual basis.
According to the en banc opinion that was issued on November 9, the Fourth District Court of Appeal stated that it would not reconsider a decision that overturned the 2013 $8 million award in favor of mesothelioma victim Richard Deliste.
He claimed that he developed the deadly cancer from smoking cigarettes with filters that contained asbestos in the 1950s. Deliste, who also worked as a pipe fitter in the 1960s, also stated that his asbestos exposure also was partially due to being exposed to gaskets that were made by Crane Company.
What Are the Dangers of Smoking Related to Mesothelioma?
It is well known that being exposed to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma. But how does smoking affect one’s risk for getting this deadly disease? If you smoke, there is no doubt that you are at higher risk for many types of cancers and serious diseases.
Some research indicates that people who smoke every day and have been exposed to asbestos are more likely to get mesothelioma. The malignant version is most common among smokers. This is the deadliest form and most difficult to treat; it affects the lungs, heart abdomen and testicles. Research suggests that the chance of getting mesothelioma or another asbestos disease increases by 90% in smokers.
One of the challenges of this type of research is that there are many types of asbestos diseases; mesothelioma is just one of them. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that smoking makes it harder for the body to get rid of deadly asbestos fibers. This makes it more likely that the fibers can damage the lungs.
Research also has shown that generally, smoking alone cannot cause mesothelioma. The only exception is with certain types of cigarettes that once had filters that contained asbestos, such as in this lawsuit.
Smoking does make it more likely that you will contract asbestosis, if you have been exposed to asbestos in the past. Those who suffer from asbestosis are more likely to get mesothelioma, and people who have asbestosis and smoke are more likely to get it. Also, the longer you smoke, the more likely you can get these deadly asbestos related illnesses.
Also know that if you have been exposed to asbestos, stopping smoking will reduce your chances of contracting mesothelioma by 50%. If you smoke and you have been exposed to asbestos in the past, you should have regular check ups and x-rays taken annually at one of the many mesothelioma treatment centers in the U.S.
Most asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits are filed against manufacturing companies; it is very unusual for an asbestos lawsuit to be filed against a tobacco company.
The appeals court stated that testimony from James Dahlgren, MD, stated that low level exposure to some types of asbestos from the Crane gaskets could have caused mesothelioma. However, it was determined that this conclusion was not backed up by scientific data.
The court found that there was not any data presented at trial that showed that this type of asbestos in very low levels could be associated with developing mesothelioma. The court stated that it had an obligation to prevent untested and unverified scientific opinion from being admitted into evidence.
The appeals court also objected to deposition testimony from James Crapo, MD, and industrial hygienist James Rasmuson. The trial court did not have enough information to include or exclude Crapo’s trial testimony, and the Ramuson testimony relied on studies that were not peer reviewed.
RJ Reynolds now faces another possible trial of this case, and the appeals court entered a verdict that was in favor of Crane. Crane and Reynolds were assigned 16% and 22% blame for the worker’s illness at the time of the trial. The remaining responsibility for his cancer was given to other companies that were not involved in the case as it went to the jury.
Deliste stated that both companies caused him to be exposed to asbestos, and he alleged negligence and strict liability. He stated that he used to smoke Kent cigarettes with filters with asbestos when he was in junior high school for about four years in the 1950s. He also stated that he was exposed to asbestos fibers in sheet gaskets by Crane Company.
However, RJ Reynolds was able to successfully challenge this testimony. The company stated that two of the man’s high school friends did not recall that he was smoking at that time of his life, and his ex-wife stated that by the 1960s, he was smoking cigarettes with no filters.