NEWPORT NEWS, Va.—The widow of a former shipyard worker who died from exposure to asbestos while building Navy aircraft carriers was awarded $5.55 million by a Circuit Court jury.
The seven jurors determined Wednesday that Kay Oney should receive the damages from two suppliers to the shipbuilding industry _ John Crane Inc. and Garlock Sealing Technologies _ for their role in the death of her husband of 43 years, Vaughn Oney. Jurors deliberated for two days.
The Newport News Shipbuilding worker died in November after developing mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer triggered by breathing asbestos fibers decades earlier.
Jurors actually awarded $9.25 million to Kay Oney. Sixty percent of the total _ or $5.55 million _ is to be paid by John Crane Inc., a multinational company that manufactured gaskets and sealants made with asbestos.
Garlock Sealing Technologies, a Palmyra, N.Y., company that competed with John Crane in making the same products, had already settled for an undisclosed amount with Oney before the case went to trial.
Archibald Wallace, a Richmond attorney who represented John Crane Inc., could not immediately be reached Thursday.
The company is expected to appeal the jury verdict.
Attorneys for the Oney family said between 1963 and 1973, Vaughn Oney was sometimes in contact with asbestos daily. He retired in 1994, in his early fifties and, according to attorneys representing the family, in good health.
But mesothelioma can remain latent in the body for 40 years. He was diagnosed in 2004.
“He needed an incredible amount of narcotics to endure the pain every day,” said Robert Hatten, who represented Oney. “The last six weeks of his life, he was in horrific condition.”
The verdict comes less than one year after the court awarded $10.4 million to the family of Buddy Jones, another Newport News shipyard worker who died of the disease.
“The asbestos industry knew that asbestos fibers could kill you,” Hatten said. “They knew how to prevent it, they knew how to test for it, they knew how to educate and they knew how to warn _ but that was not in their financial interest.”