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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

N.Y. jury awards two plaintiffs $25M in asbestos trial

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Jun 24, 2014

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - A New York jury recently entered a $25 million verdict against Crane Company and in favor of two electricians in a consolidated asbestos trial.

After a four-week trial and two days of deliberation in New York County Supreme Court, the six-panel jury reached a verdict on June 16.

Judge Cynthia S. Kern presided over the trial.

The jury found that the plaintiffs were exposed to asbestos products used in connection with Crane's valves as well as products sold by Crane.

They also found that Crane failed to provide adequate warnings regarding asbestos hazards when using its equipment, which they agreed was a substantial contributing factor in causing the claimants' mesothelioma.

They awarded Dorcas Hackshaw, as executor of the estate of Selwyn A. Hackshaw, $10 million for past pain and suffering from the onset of his mesothelioma to the date of his death.

They awarded Ivan and Laraine Sweberg $5 million for past pain and suffering from the onset of his mesothelioma to the date of the verdict and $10 million for future pain and suffering. They agreed that the award for future pain and suffering was intended to cover 1 1/2 years.

The jury also found that Crane acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others in each case, meaning Crane's percentage of liability could increase. In other words, it could be held liable for the remaining amount after prior settlements have been deducted from the total awards.

While both plaintiffs named several defendants in the trial, only Crane was left at the time of trial. The jury split liability among roughly 20 defendants in Hackshaw's case and about 30 defendants in Sweberg's case, apportioning Crane's liability to 20 percent for Hackshaw and nine percent for Sweberg.

Other settled defendants that were apportioned liability for contributing to the plaintiffs' mesothelioma and failing to warn of potential asbestos hazards include Garlock Sealing Technologies, General Electric, National Gypsum, Gould Pumps and Westinghouse Electric Corp.

Hackshaw alleged her husband worked as an electrician and pipefitter before developing mesothelioma in late 2012, which contributed to his death in August 2013 at the age of 74.

According to court records, Hackshaw was born in Curacao, a Dutch Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela, where he worked as a pipefitter and electrician at a water distillation plant and a Shell Oil refinery from 1957 to 1964.

He later came to the U.S. in 1967, where he continued his work as an electrician.

As part of his tasks as an electrician and pipefitter, Hackshaw was responsible for making and changing asbestos-containing gaskets to be used in the valves.

He would oftentimes use Crane's Cranite Asbestos Sheet Gasketing Material to create the gaskets, which contained between 75 percent and 85 percent asbestos.

Hackshaw testified that he made the gaskets by beating the material with a ball-peen hammer and then cutting it, a task which typically formed a cloud of asbestos dust.

He also had to apply and remove asbestos-containing insulation in order to get to the Crane valves.

Sweberg, who is 72 years old, also worked as a union electrician, entering the trade by following in his father's footsteps.

Sweberg was exposed to asbestos from 1962 to 1972 during the construction, renovation and repair of several New York City schools and high-rise buildings, court records show.

Dan Kraft, Jr., one of the plaintiffs' trial attorneys, explained that Sweberg's exposure resulted from others applying asbestos-containing insulation to boilers, pumps, valves and other equipment in close proximity to his work station.

Sweberg was diagnosed with asbestosis in 1997 and made sure to receive CT scans of his chest to monitor for signs of progression twice a year. That's when doctors discovered his pleural mesothelioma in 2012.

Both plaintiffs were represented by Kraft, Michael Fanelli and Jerry Kristal of Weitz & Luxenberg.

Crane was represented by James Lowery and Tara Pehush of K&L Gates.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Heather Isringhausen Gvillo at

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