January 7, 2015

Foley & Mansfield Obtains Defense Verdict in Minnesota Living Mesothelioma Case

On February 26, 2009, after a 14-day trial, Foley & Mansfield obtained a defense verdict in a Minnesota living mesothelioma, asbestos-related personal injury case for the two remaining defendants at trial represented by Foley & Mansfield Flowserve Corporation and Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc. Lead counsel for the Defendants, Stephen J. Foley, one of Foley & Mansfield’s founding partners, was lead trial counsel for Flowserve Corporation, assisted by Erich Gleber of Segal, McCambridge, Singer & Mahoney and Christopher L. Goodman of Foley & Mansfield. Lane Young and Elizabeth ONeill of Hawkins & Parnell were lead trial counsel for Scapa Dryer Fabrics, and were assisted by Jamie L. Habeck of Foley & Mansfield. 

Waters & Kraus and Jekel & Doolittle represented plaintiff Gordon B. Skelly, age 65. Skelly was a millwright at the Blandin Paper Mill in northern Minnesota for 36 years. He alleged that asbestos gaskets and packing in Flowserves pumps and asbestos dryer felts made by Scapa caused his mesothelioma. Waters & Kraus started the trial with seven defendants General Electric, Foster Wheeler, Gould Pumps, Peerless Pumps, Flowserve, Scapa, and Nexen Group. All but Flowserve and Scapa settled out of the case during the trial. 

Plaintiff and his family attended the entire trial. Plaintiff testified in person during the trial, as well as plaintiffs experts Dr. Arnold Brody and Dr. Edwin Holstein. Defense called Paul Carlson, Donna Ringo, C.I.H., Dr. James Crapo, and Dr. Samuel Hammar as their experts.

The defense argued that the thermal insulation throughout the Blandin Paper Mill, and plaintiffs employers failure to protect Mr. Skelly from the insulation materials, caused his mesothelioma. Plaintiff asked the jury for $22 million in damages to be allocated against Flowserve and Scapa, each 50%. An eight member jury deliberated for a little over four hours and found that Flowserves and Scapas products were not defective by reason of design or because of a failure to warn. The jury assigned 70% of the cause to the employer, Blandin Paper Mill, and 20% to Johns-Manville and 10% to Owens-Corning Fiberglass, the manufacturers of the thermal insulation in the mill. Under Minnesota law, a jury is required to answer the damages questions on the jury verdict form regardless of the answers to the liability questions. The jury found a total of $5 million in damages.

Jamie L. Habeck