A Hartford attorney is asking a New York court for a mistrial or directed verdict for the defense following a jury’s attempt to award part of $5 million to the estate of a 77-year-old man who died of mesothelioma allegedly caused by asbestos in the 1950s.
The jury found in favor of the estate of Daniel Barber against several contractors, suppliers and distributors of products containing asbestos. But attorney Morris Borea argues inconsistencies with the verdict form could bode well for overturning the multimillion-dollar award.
Borea represents defendant AII Acquisition Corp., successor to Michigan-based Holland Furnace Co. The six-person jury originally answered “no” to a question on the verdict sheet asking if Barber’s exposure to asbestos was a substantial factor in his fatal illness. But jurors later changed the answer to “yes” after Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe noted inconsistencies and instructed them to make corrections.
“Our position is that the original answer should stand,” said Borea, a partner with McGivney, Kluger & Cook.
Now, the New York judge will hear the Connecticut attorney’s request to enforce the original finding of no causation.
Borea’s client is responsible for $1.5 million of the $5 million verdict. Utica Boilers must pay $1 million, while about 10 other defendants were liable for the remaining $2.5 million. The 10 companies had earlier reached a confidential settlement with Barber’s estate.
Barber is a former Norwalk resident who later moved to Michigan. He died of mesothelioma in February 2017.
The amended lawsuit maintains he was exposed to asbestos while working in shipyards, steel mills and industrial sites over several years. But at trial, the plaintiffs focused solely on their claim that Barber’s asbestos exposure occurred between 1953 and 1958, when he was 14-19 years old, Borea said. During that time, Barber helped his stepfather install and remove boilers and furnaces from homes in the Norwalk area and in New York City.
The suit linked Barber’s death to asbestos exposure, and sought to hold the defendants liable. But Borea argued the plaintiffs never proved causation.
Jordan Fox of Belluck & Fox in New York City is the attorney for Barber’s estate. Fox did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Attorney Christian Gannon, a shareholder with Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney in New York City, represents Utica Boilers. He did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.