A Hamilton County jury on Monday afternoon returned a record $1.4 million verdict against National Service Industries, doing business as North Brothers.
The trial was believed to be only the second asbestos trial in the state of Tennessee in the last 15 years or so.
The verdict is believed to be the first asbestos verdict rendered against North Brothers in any state, attorneys said.
The case – officially titled Marian H. Jackson, individually and as surviving spouse of Kenneth W. Jackson v. Breeding Insulation Company, Inc. et al., Hamilton County Circuit Court, Division 1, case no. 07C936 – was tried over the course of seven days. The jury then deliberated for almost two days before reaching its unanimous decision.
All of the other defendants in the case except for North Brothers either settled with the plaintiff or else were dismissed prior to the trial.
Wayne Jackson worked as a pipefitter at Combustion Engineering in Chattanooga from 1952-1986. During that time he was repeatedly exposed to asbestos-containing products, some of which were manufactured or sold by North Brothers.
The jury found that North Brothers sold defective products to Combustion Engineering, that Mr. Jackson was exposed to North Brothers’ products, and that North Brothers’ products caused or contributed to Mr. Jackson’s development of mesothelioma (a rare form of cancer that is uniquely associated with asbestos exposure).
Among others, testifying on behalf of the plaintiffs during the trial were Jerrold Abraham, M.D. (a world renowned pathologist from SUNY), Richard Lemen, Ph.D. (an epidemiologist and former deputy director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), and Bruce Hutchinson, Ph.D. (a U.T.C. economist). The only witness who testified for North Brothers was William Dyson (an industrial hygienist).
Mrs. Jackson and the Jackson family were represented by attorney Jimmy Rodgers with the law firm of Summers & Wyatt in Chattanooga, along with attorneys Rett Guerry and Ben Cunningham from the Motley Rice law firm out of Charleston, S.C.
Mr. Rodgers said, “We are very appreciative of the service by the individual jurors, and that they took their time to consider the evidence. Our main regret is that the jury had no means to bring Mr. Jackson back to his wife and family.
“This verdict represents a milestone victory for asbestos victims – not only for Combustion retirees in the Chattanooga area, but also for all people exposed to asbestos throughout Tennessee and the Chattanooga metropolitan area as well. Hopefully this verdict wills send a signal to asbestos manufacturers and suppliers that the days of getting away with knowingly exposing Tennessee citizens and workers to poisonous and defective products is over.”
North Brothers was represented during the trial by attorneys Hugh Bright and Mike King from the Woolf McClane firm out of Knoxville.
This verdict is believed to be the first asbestos verdict rendered against a Woolf McClane client in Tennessee history, attorney Rodgers said.