A South Carolina state court jury recently issued a verdict against a company that supplied asbestos-containing packing and valve gaskets to a nuclear plant where the plaintiff was allegedly exposed during his former work there. The verdict was issued on August 3rd against Emerson Electric Company subsidiary units Crosby Valve and Fisher Controls International, for their supply of asbestos-containing valves.
Like many others who have been exposed to asbestos, the 73-year-old plaintiff has asbestos-related mesothelioma, a cancer in the lining around his lungs. Workers affected by asbestos have been pursuing lawsuits against companies utilizing the toxic carcinogen since the late 1920s. The evidence of its adverse health effects have been well documented, yet companies were negligent and continued production. In this case, even defense witnesses associated with these companies testified that they could have used materials other than asbestos at the time, but did not.
The jury reportedly decided that the defendant companies breached the implied warranty of merchantability. In South Carolina, when a merchant sells a particular type of product, the law provides that the merchant warrants by implication that the goods are merchantable. Other states’ laws allow similar causes of action.
One aspect of merchantability is that the goods “are fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are used,” according to South Carolina statute. The South Carolina jury likely found that the gaskets and packing were unfit for routine use because they were inherently dangerous to anyone who used them since the asbestos they contained could cause mesothelioma and other diseases.
Both plaintiffs and defendants filed post-trial motions. Depending on how the court rules on those motions, there could be an appeal. In the meantime, other lawsuits are pending against Emerson and hundreds of other companies across the country.