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Date of Verdict:

March 29.

Court and Case No.:

C.P. Philadelphia No. 150701334.

Judge:

Ann M. Butchart.

Type of Action:

Products liability.

Injuries:

Larynx cancer.

Plaintiffs Counsel:

Michael A. Cancelliere Jr. and Casey R. Coburn, Nass Cancelliere Brenner, Philadelphia.

Defense Counsel:

Mark I. Tivin, O’Connell, Tivin, Miller & Burns, Chicago; Tiffany F. Turner, Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, Philadelphia.

Plaintiffs Experts:

Arthur Frank, occupational medicine, Philadelphia; Steven Ladenheim, otolaryngology, Philadelphia.

Defense Experts:

Amy Madl, toxicology, San Francisco; James Crapo, pulmonology, Denver.

Comment:

In February 2015, plaintiff William Murray, 61, of Bellmawr, New Jersey, was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer.

From 1974 to 1996, Murray had worked as a machinist assistant, an inspector, and in quality assurance at a naval shipyard in Philadelphia.

Murray claimed that, from 1974 to 1985, the majority of his time at the shipyard was spent exposed to asbestos-containing products, such as valves and their packing, by directly working with them. Additionally, he sustained bystander exposure to gaskets, pumps, turbines and thermal insulation on pipes and turbines.

Murray asserted that asbestos-containing packing manufactured by John Crane Inc. resulted in his developing cancer.

Murray sued John Crane Inc., alleging claims under a theory of products liability, including design defect, failure to warn, and strict liability. (A number of other companies were named as defendants but the claims were dismissed, or concluded via dispositions involving undisclosed terms, prior to trial.)

Georgia Pacific (maker of joint compounds), Greene Tweed (manufacturer of packing), DeLaval/IMO (maker of pumps and gaskets), General Electric (maker of turbines), Ingersoll Rand (manufacturer of compressors and gaskets), Union Carbide (producer of asbestos fiber), and Westinghouse Electric Corp. (maker of turbines) all remained on the verdict slip, since John Crane had brought cross-claims against the companies.

Murray’s counsel argued that no warnings about the hazards of asbestos were on any John Crane packing products.

Murray’s expert in occupational medicine maintained that his work around packing, gaskets and insulation contributed to a cumulative asbestos exposure that resulted in the development of his larynx cancer.

According to Murray’s expert in otolaryngology, the cancer was caused by a combination of his asbestos exposure and his approximately 20 years of smoking (he smoked as a teen, and stopped in the early 1980s).

Counsel for John Crane argued that Murray’s exposure to another company’s asbestos-containing thermal system insulation was the cause of the laryngeal cancer.

John Crane’s expert in pulmonology testified that Murray could not develop asbestos-related larynx cancer from his exposure to its asbestos-containing John Crane packing products, and that his cancer was caused by his exposure to asbestos thermal insulation and cigarette smoking.

John Crane’s expert in toxicology determined that Murray’s exposure to the company’s packing was not sufficient to increase his risk of asbestos-related cancer.

In October 2014, Murray began seeing a number of physicians for a hoarse voice and vocal disruption.

Following tests, and finally a biopsy, he was diagnosed with cancer, in February 2015. He underwent 28 radiation treatments, and by May he was determined to be cancer free. For the rest of his life, Murray will undergo a laryngoscopy, in which an otolaryngologist will examine his vocal cords with a laryngoscope (the scope is inserted through the nostril and down the throat).

Murray testified that he experiences a constant hoarseness and low voice, and is subject to frequent choking and gasping attacks. The latter primarily occur when lying down, which in turn has disrupted his sleeping. The attacks allegedly embarrass him and deter him from dining at restaurants. Additionally, his grandchildren have difficulty hearing him, and his coughing fits regularly wake up his young grandchildren. He sought damages for past and future pain and suffering.

Murray’s wife talked about her husband’s condition and how it has greatly affected her sleep, which has resulted in strained marital relations. She sought damages for her claim for loss of consortium.

The jury found that Murray’s exposure to asbestos was a factual cause of his larynx cancer. According to jurors, Murray was exposed to asbestos products from Georgia Pacific, John Crane and Greene Tweed, and these companies’ products were defective for lacking any warning or other instruction necessary to make them reasonably safe. The Murrays were determined to receive $220,000. Since John Crane was found one-third liable, it was responsible for $73,333.33 of the damages amount.

This report is based on information that was provided by counsel for plaintiffs and John Crane Inc. The other defendants were not asked to contribute.

— This article first appeared in VerdictSearch, an ALM publication.