Appeals court overturns $24 million asbestos verdict

Chris Rizo Nov. 1, 2009, 10:15am

MIAMI (Legal Newsline)-A Florida appeals court last week reversed a $24.2 million product liability verdict, overturning a jury award to a Weston, Fla., surgeon who claimed exposure to asbestos-containing brake pads caused his cancer.

On Wednesday, in an unsigned opinion, a panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal ordered a new trial in Dr. Stephen Guilder's case against Honeywell International, the parent company of Bendix, which made the brake pads that were blamed for causing his fatal cancer.

Guilder, a head and neck surgeon, died from peritoneal mesothelioma -- a cancer of the abdominal lining -- in September at 52-years-old.

In April 2008, a Miami-Dade County jury awarded him and his family $24.2 million because Honeywell was negligent in selling the chrysotile asbestos-containing pads.

As a teenager, Guilder worked with asbestos-containing brake pads on his stepfather's farm in the 1970s and '80s.

After trial, Honeywell moved for a new trial. Honeywell also moved to alter or amend the judgment and for collateral source setoff. Miami-Dade County Judge Richard Fede denied all post-trial motions. Honeywell appealed to the 3rd District Court of Appeal.

The appeals court found that Feder had erred by refusing to redact portions of a letter from a Bendix employee to an asbestos supplier that was determined to be prejudicial to Morristown, N.J.-based Honeywell.

The $24 million jury verdict included a $10.4 million award for Guilder's children for loss of parental consortium.

The three-member appeals court panel found that the children were not entitled to loss of consortium damages because the law only applied to negligent acts after Oct. 1, 1988, and Guilder's last known exposure to asbestos was 1982.

"Therefore, we find that the loss of consortium damage award was improper," the appeals panel ruled.

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