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Simeon Johnson, Charles White, Bobby Lawrence, James Curry, Phillip Pate and Ernest Jordan all worked for years as laborers in boiler rooms and around pipes in shipyards and schools in Mississippi. During this time, which spanned the 1950s to the 1970s, each was exposed to asbestos and subsequently diagnosed with asbestos-related lung disease, according to plaintiffs’ attorney Isaac K. Byrd Jr. Although none has developed asbestosis or mesothelioma, “our pulmonologists testified they were all at risk for developing lung cancer and mesothelioma,” he said. These plaintiffs, along with four others whose cases settled prior to trial, sued a bevy of asbestos makers and distributors, charging that their negligence caused the men’s illnesses. All but three of the defendants settled before trial, leaving AC&S Manufacturing Inc., Dresser Industries and Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Inc. The plaintiffs claimed that AC&S manufactured and distributed asbestos despite actual knowledge, going back decades, of the dangers to workers, and that Dresser’s Harbison Walker division did likewise. The claim against 3M was for selling a dust mask that was not effective with respect to asbestos. The defendants denied any liability and contested the claims of asbestos-related illnesses. Dresser’s owner, Halliburton Co., stated in a press release that “the only doctor to find a supposed asbestos-related condition was hired by plaintiffs’ lawyers to screen potential clients.” On Oct. 27, a Lexington, Miss., jury found all three companies liable and awarded $150 million — $25 million to each plaintiff. The jury, however, assigned partial responsibility to other manufacturers. As a result, Dresser is liable for $21.25 million, 3M for $22.5 million and AC&S for $83.75 million. The defendants have indicated that they plan to appeal. Plaintiffs’ attorneys: Isaac K. Byrd Jr., Suzanne G. Keys and Precious T. Martin, Byrd & Associates, Jackson, Miss.; Timothy W. Porter and Patrick J. Malouf, Porter & Malouf, Jackson. Defense attorneys: Leslie Joyner Bobo, Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada, Jackson; David Barfield, Jackson.

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