On June 8, 2016, after a three and one-half week trial, an eight-member jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff in a Minnesota wrongful death asbestos case (Jenella Conda, on behalf of the heirs of Ronald Conda v. 3M, et al.).  This is the second plaintiffs’ verdict in a Minnesota asbestos case in the past five years. 

Trial began on May 16, 2016, against seven defendants including Borg-Warner Morse TEC LLC, Fluor Daniels, Foster Wheeler, Georgia-Pacific, Honeywell International, Ingersoll Rand, and Smith-Sharpe.  Borg-Warner, Foster Wheeler, Georgia-Pacific, and Ingersoll Rand settled during the first two weeks of trial.  Smith-Sharpe was voluntarily dismissed by the remaining parties.  The Court granted Fluor’s directed verdict motion at the end of Plaintiff’s case-in-chief.  Plaintiff presented expert testimony by Dr. Eugene Mark, Dr. Ed Holstein, and Dr. Arnold Brody.  Plaintiff was represented by Jessica Dean and Ben Braly.  They focused their case on Mr. Conda’s work replacing brakes on automobiles with his father growing up, at a Standard Oil service station for two years, and on various personal vehicles throughout his lifetime.

Honeywell called Dr. Michael Graham, Dr. David H. Garabrandt, Mr. Charles Blake, and Mr. Thomas McCaffrey as expert witnesses. Honeywell defended the case with a chrystotile defense. Honeywell also pointed to Mr. Conda’s exposures during his service in United States Navy for three years on the USS Radford and to Mr. Conda’s 30-year career as an ironworker at electrical generating power plants for Xcel Energy f/k/a Northern States Power.  

After one day of deliberation, the jury assigned the following fault: 10% to Honeywell, 10% to Foster Wheeler, and 80% to NSP (Mr. Conda’s employer).

The total damages were $3,700,000 with the following breakdown:  $223,533 (past medicals/income loss – pension/social security which was stipulated to by both parties) and $3,477,000 in pecuniary damages (loss of advice, comfort, and guidance to Mr. Conda’s widow and four adult children).  Honeywell did make a motion for a mistrial following closing arguments. The motion is currently under advisement.

This verdict is significant because it will change the historical settlement values in Minnesota for wrongful death cases.  Prior to today’s verdict, the average jury verdict value for a wrongful death case in Minnesota was approximately $400,000.

 

For additional information, please contact Dave Scouton in our Minneapolis office at 612.338.8788.