Family of Deceased Mesothelioma Victim Awarded $3.8 Million Against Owens–Corning Fiberglas
SAN FRANCISCO — April 21, 1995 — A San Francisco jury concluded its deliberations and awarded the surviving family of James Wiggins $3,876,000 in compensatory damages and $12,500 in punitive damages against Owens–Corning Fiberglas for the death of James Wiggins. Mr. Wiggins, age 54, died in January 1994 from mesothelioma, a chest cancer uniquely caused by asbestos exposure. His survivors included his wife Mary and three children.
James Wiggins, at the time of his death, was residing in Texas and was working for the Texas School System as the Regional Director for educational computer services. He had been active in community affairs for many years. In 1992, he contracted mesothelioma and died approximately 18 months later from this invariably fatal asbestos cancer.
James Wiggins' only asbestos exposure occurred when he served in the U.S. Navy for 30 months in 1957 to 1960. James Wiggins served on board the USS Tortuga as a boilerman and helped maintain the engines and boilers. In 1958, the USS Tortuga was overhauled at Moore Dry Dock in Oakland, California, and it was during this six–month overhaul that James Wiggins received most, if not all his exposure to asbestos. Owens–Corning Fiberglas manufactured and sold much of the asbestos pipe insulation that was used on board the USS TORTUGA during the overhaul. The jury specifically found that Owens–Corning Fiberglas was 45% at fault for James Wiggins' death.
The jury trial case lasted approximately four months and involved proof that Owens–Corning Fiberglas and others fraudulently concealed the dangers of asbestos from consumers. The jury found that Owens–Corning Fiberglas' acts were fraudulent or malicious and that punitive damages of $12,500 should be awarded. Plaintiffs' trial counsel specifically asked that any punitive award be relatively small but that the jury "send a message" that Owens–Corning Fiberglas' conduct cannot be tolerated and deserves punishment.