One of the interesting aspects being discussed in legal circles in the fallout from an asbestos case in which a jury awarded a Mississippi man $322 million in damages is an attack by the defense on the man’s lack of literacy. Given the huge size of the verdict some experts are questioning the tactics of the oil company attorneys.
It seems the victim, Thomas C. Brown, a 48-year-old man who now has to survive on oxygen each day because of ailment he has suffered because of his exposure to asbestos, couldn’t read or write when he went to work on the oil fields and rigs in Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico, according to evidence at the trial that was emphasized by the oil company lawyers in their defense to charges of liability and negligence in protecting Brown from the dangers of asbestos.
Whether that tactic was successful or not is difficult to know because we don’t know what went on in the jurors’ minds but the fact that they rejected the oil companies’ defense and awarded such a large amount of damages would seem to indicate that the literacy approach might not have been the best way for them to defend against the charges.
The verdict also was in line with a consistent series of successful lawsuits that have been brought against employers and manufacturers over several decades in which experienced mesothelioma lawyers have won hundreds of millions of dollars in jury verdicts and settlements that were reached to avoid trials on behalf of victims of asbestos-related diseases.