NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - (Mealey's) A Virginia jury on March 17 returned a $25 million verdict for a man exposed to asbestos while repairing Exxon Mobil Corp. ships at Newport News Shipbuilding, sources told Mealey Publications (Bert Minton v. Exxon Mobil Corp., No. CL0901505F-15, Va. Cir., Newport News).
The jury's award consists of $12 million in compensatory damages, $12.5 million in punitive damages and $430,961 in medical damages, plus interest, sources confirmed. Sources said the punitive damages award would be reduced to $5 million, the amount the plaintiffs sought at trial.
Rubert "Bert" Minton and Linda C. Minton filed suit under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWC) in the Newport News Circuit Court, alleging that the numerous defendants' conduct exposed him to the asbestos that caused his mesothelioma. Minton claimed exposure while employed as a repair supervisor on commercial vessels at Newport News Shipbuilding from 1966 to 1977.
At trial, only the Mintons' claims against Exxon remained. The Mintons claimed that during Bert Minton's employment at Newport News Shipbuilding, he worked on 17 Exxon commercial oil tankers. The Mintons claimed that although Exxon took steps to protect its refinery workers beginning in 1937, it did not take the same precautions for shipyard workers or crewmembers.
During the three-week trial, Exxon argued that under the LHWC, the duty to protect the workers fell to the shipyard and not the ships' owner, sources said.
The jury began deliberating March 16 and reached its verdict the following morning, sources said. Judge Timothy Fisher presided.
Sources said they expect Exxon to appeal the verdict.
[Editor's Note: Full coverage will be in the April 6 issue of Mealey's Litigation Report: Asbestos. For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]
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