Understanding, Managing, and Living with the

Health Effects of Asbestos

New Evidence Reopens Scotts Turf Builder Mesothelioma Lawsuit

March 20, 2018

Trenton, NJ Environmental law has become better at protecting consumers from asbestos exposure in recent decades. But mesothelioma has a very long latency period, sometimes as long as 50 years. The plaintiff’s case in many asbestos mesothelioma lawsuits depends on finding very old samples of the product implicated in exposure. That’s tough, especially when those samples tend to be in the possession of the defendant.

On February 26, 2018, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey decided to permit the re-opening of a mesothelioma lawsuit dismissed in 2015 because of the discovery of a pre-1980 sample of Scott’s Turf Builder, allegedly the source of the now-deceased plaintiff’s asbestosis exposure. It had been in the possession of the Scotts Company, all along.

Was Scotts Turf Builder the culprit?

Lorenz Brandecker, a cabinetmaker by trade, took good care of his yard. Twice a year, from 1967 to 1980, he used a spreader to apply two bags of Scotts Turf Builder to the lawn of his property in Wayne Township. NJ. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in March 2012, filed his lawsuit in July and died in October of that year.

The lawsuit, now pursued by his widow, claims that his disease was caused by exposure to the asbestos-containing vermiculite that was used as filler in the fertilizer. At the time of Lorenz’s alleged exposure, Scotts purchased vermiculite from a mine in Libby, Montana, which was found to be contaminated with asbestos. Since 1980, Scotts has purchased vermiculate from a different source.

At the time of discovery in the initial lawsuit, Scotts was unable to produce a pre-1980 sample of Turf Builder. His widow had to rely on evidence about contamination of another unrelated product. Scotts filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted on Jan. 10, 2014, and the case was finally dismissed in 2015. It looked like the end of the road for Mrs. Brandecker.

Surprise, surprise!

Scotts Company rediscovered some pre-1980 samples in the spring of 2014. These were disclosed in another unrelated mesothelioma lawsuit. The court found that the vintage samples had been in Scotts’s possession since 1979 and had been collected by Scotts’s attorney in 2006 in preparation for litigation.

The Appellate Division found that Scotts Company had a duty to disclose the existence of these samples in the Brandecker lawsuit but failed to do so. So, it’s back to court for Mrs. Brandecker.

Why were the samples not produced in the first place? Is this a common occurrence in asbestos mesothelioma lawsuits that depend on the testing of very old product samples? These are questions worth asking.