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CASE TYPE: Asbestos personal injury CASE: Johnson v. AC&S Manufacturing Inc., No. 2000-181 (Holmes Co., Miss., Cir. Ct.) PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEYS: Isaac K. Byrd Jr., Suzanne G. Keys and Precious T. Martin of Jackson, Miss., Byrd & Associates; and Timothy W. Porter and Patrick J. Malouf of Jackson’s Porter & Malouf DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: David Barfield of Jackson’s Barfield & Associates, for AC&S Manufacturing Inc. and Dresser Industries; Mary Wells of Denver’s Wells, Anderson & Race; and Leslie Joyner Bobo of Jackson, Miss., Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada JURY VERDICT: $150 million It was once thought that when the workers in the shipyards in Baltimore and elsewhere died off, and the primary makers of asbestos settled or went under, there would be a tapering off of the asbestos litigation docket. The lull never occurred. Instead, lawyers for plaintiffs exposed to asbestos targeted other companies and industries. In all, nationwide there were 13 verdicts of $10 million or more in asbestos cases in 2001. In 2000, by comparison, there were six. The largest verdict, for $150 million, came against two deep-pocket defendants: Dresser Industries (a division of Halliburton) and Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. The verdict came in Mississippi, a state where few asbestos cases have been tried, said plaintiffs’ attorney Timothy W. Porter. The verdict went to six plaintiffs who had contracted asbestosis. The plaintiffs had all worked for years as laborers in boiler rooms and around pipes in shipyards and at schools in Mississippi. Although none of the plaintiffs has cancer, said Porter, “asbestosis is a progressive disease. They now have shortness of breath and are worried about their health and future.” Said plaintiffs’ attorney Isaac K. Byrd Jr., “Our pulmonologists testified they were all at risk for developing lung cancer and mesothelioma.” These plaintiffs, along with four others, sued a number of asbestos makers and distributors, charging that the defendants’ negligence had caused the illnesses. The four additional cases were settled before trial, Byrd said, as were the remaining plaintiffs’ claims against all but three of the defendants. By the time of trial, only AC&S Manufacturing Inc., Dresser Industries and 3M were left. The claim against AC&S was that it made and distributed asbestos, even though it knew of the dangers asbestos posed to workers decades before the plaintiffs were exposed, Byrd said. The claim against Dresser was that its Harbison-Walker Refractories division manufactured asbestos despite knowledge of its dangers. Harbison-Walker was spun off from Dresser, but Dresser’s new owner, Halliburton, was left on the hook, Porter said. A novel claim was made against 3M, which was never a maker or distributor of asbestos. The plaintiffs contended that the company was negligent and had engaged in false advertising and marketing in selling a dust mask to protect workers. The defendants denied any liability. Halliburton, in a statement after the trial, contended that “the Harbison-Walker products to which the plaintiffs claimed exposure simply did not exist.” 3M contended it had never claimed the masks could filter out asbestos fibers. AC&S disputed the plaintiffs’ exposure to its products. All three defendants contested the plaintiffs’ claims of asbestos-related illnesses. But on Oct. 27, 2001, a Lexington, Miss., jury awarded $150 million — $25 million to each plaintiff — finding all three companies liable. The jury rejected the plaintiffs’ bid for punitives and assigned partial responsibility to other asbestos manufacturers. As a result, the hits against the individual defendants are $21.25 million against Dresser, $22.5 million against 3M and $83.75 million against AC&S. The defendants will appeal.

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