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Asbestos victim awarded $10 million in punitive damages

September 14th, 2006

A jury in San Francisco has ordered Asbestos Corporation to pay $10 million in punitive damages to an ex-sailor who now suffers from mesothelioma as a result of handling the hazardous fibers.

Joseph Garza, 75, worked as a boilerman in U.S. Navy ships from 1948 to 1957. During that time, he was exposed to asbestos debris from gaskets, packing and insulation. In the trial, Asbestos Corporation was alleged to have supplied all the asbestos found in the cement used by the Navy during Garza’s service. The Canadian company was further alleged to have known about the hazards of asbestos but failed to give adequate warnings.

Because of his mesothelioma diagnosis, Garza requires constant supplemental oxygen and medication. In July, he was awarded $1.5 million in compensatory damages. But the jury also found “legal malice or oppression,” so he was entitled to seek punitive damages. And for that, he was awarded $10 million.

Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, is caused by exposure to asbestos. It affects the lining of the lungs, heart and abdominal cavity. Every year, some 10,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma or some related disease.

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