Ford Motor Co. was ordered to pay $34 million to a former automobile mechanic who claimed working with the company’s asbestos-containing brakes caused him to develop mesothelioma, a rare but deadly cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
Arthur Putt replaced thousands of worn brakes containing asbestos while working at gas stations in Southern California and Indiana in the 1960s and 1970s. Asbestos is a mineral that was widely used in construction, shipbuilding and friction materials, such as brakes and brake pads. When asbestos-containing materials are frayed or damaged, the microscopic fibers of asbestos can go airborne and be inhaled or swallowed. Over the course of decades, the fibers can lead to mesothelioma, a type of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or other internal organs.
A mesothelioma diagnosis is typically dire. Once diagnosed, the disease usually proves fatal within 12 to 24 months. Because of its associated health risks, asbestos has since been banned by at least 60 countries. It is still used in the United States, but its use is restricted.
The jury found Ford liable for Putt’s illness because the company did not place warnings on the brakes that the products contained cancer-causing asbestos. The jury also found that Putt’s employers, other automakers, and makers and suppliers of other auto brakes were not responsible for Putt’s illness.
The award included $4.5 million for Arthur Putt’s past and future noneconomic damages and $4 million for his wife Janet for loss of consortium, as well as an additional $25.5 million in punitive damages.
Sharon Zinns, who works in Beasley Allen’s Atlanta office, is leading a team handling mesothelioma claims. They are looking at cases of industrial, occupational and secondary asbestos exposure resulting in lung cancer or mesothelioma. Additionally, they are looking into claims of asbestos-related talc products linked to mesothelioma.