Understanding, Managing, and Living with the

Health Effects of Asbestos

At $322 Million, It's the Largest Asbestos Award Ever

May 13, 2011

Jackson, MS A Mississippi man has been awarded what is thought to be the largest single award in any asbestos case to date. The Associated Press (AP) reported on May 7 that Thomas C. Brown was awarded $300 million in punitive damages and $22 million in actual damages in a drilling mud lawsuit. It is not known if the defendant Union Carbide Corp. will appeal the landmark ruling. Co-defendant Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. indicated it would file an appeal.

According to the AP report, Brown was just 16 years of age when he went into the oil fields and worked mixing asbestos drilling mud for about six years starting in 1979. Thirty years later he was diagnosed with asbestosis, a time frame consistent with the long lag time for asbestos-related disease to emerge following initial exposure.

Brown's asbestos drilling mud lawyer noted that the drilling mud was manufactured by Union Carbide and sold by Chevron Phillips Chemical, and that the defendants continued to market the toxic substances long after the dangers inherent with such an asbestos-laden product became known.

The defendants were accused in the oil drilling mud lawsuit of manufacturing a defective product and failing to provide proper warning as to its risks.

The plaintiff is now 48 and requires oxygen 24 hours a day to help manage his asbestosis. There is no known cure. Patients affected by asbestos-related disease have little to look forward to beyond a slow, painful death.

The defendants in the oil drilling mud case claimed the verdict was outrageous. It was noted in court documents that while packaging containing the drilling mud additive did include a warning pertaining to the contents, together with a caution that breathing in asbestos fibers could cause serious injury, the plaintiff was unable to read or write when he began working in the fields.

The asbestos drilling mud problem has come to the fore of public conscience since the BP oil disaster of a year ago. The $322 million award was handed down by a jury in Mississippi.