Dying Asbestos Insulator Awarded $4.5 Million
SAN FRANCISCO — February 11, 1998 — A San Francisco jury awarded Billy Armstrong of Pacheco, California $4,486,000 in damages. Mr. Armstrong, 54 years old, is suffering from a rare form of cancer, mesothelioma, which is caused by asbestos. He is expected to live only four to six more months.
Billy Armstrong is a member of Local 16 of the International Union of Heat and Frost Insulators, also known as the Asbestos Workers’ Union. The defendants, Raymark Industries, Inc., and Pittsburgh Corning Corporation manufactured asbestos products which Billy Armstrong used in the 1960s and 1970s.
The trial began on December 13, 1997, before Judge Gerald Ragan (ret.). During the trial, evidence was presented that Billy Armstrong used Raymark’s asbestos cloth products and Pittsburgh Corning’s asbestos pipe covering products and was exposed to asbestos dust from those products. The jury heard how both Raymark and Pittsburgh Corning had direct knowledge of asbestos hazards associated with their products, including the possibility of this fatal cancer. Neither Raymark nor Pittsburgh Corning made any attempt to warn users about these health hazards.
Billy Armstrong suffers from mesothelioma; an invariably fatal cancer involving the lining of the lung. Though this cancer is rare in the general population, about 1,500–2,000 cases per year occur in people exposed to even relatively small amounts of asbestos, Billy Armstrong was diagnosed in February 1997, and has sought special genetic treatment at a government-sponsored research project in New Orleans, but without success.
Billy Armstrong joined the Asbestos Workers’ Union and began his career as an insulator in 1966 and worked continuously until his diagnosis. From 1966 to 1975 his work involved regular use of asbestos pipe covering and cloth. This work ultimately caused his disease. He worked in East Bay refineries, power plants, and shipyards.
The jury awarded Mr. Armstrong $96,500 for medical expenses; $857,546 lost earnings; and $3,500,000 for pain and suffering.
Billy Armstrong was represented by Brayton Purcell LLP of Novato, California.