N.J. judge awards $90.5M to 11 families in asbestos default judgments

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Jul 17, 2014

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - A New Jersey judge has awarded $90.5 million for pain and suffering to the families of 11 people who allegedly died as a result of asbestos exposure from the Johns Manville insulation plant.

Judge Ana Viscomi of the Superior Court of Middlesex County delivered her ruling in favor of the plaintiffs on July 2 after one week of hearings.

The plaintiffs were represented by Levy Konigsberg LLP and Szaferman, Lakind, Blumstein & Blader PC.

The lawsuits were filed between 2008 and 2011.

The Levy Konigsberg firm explained that the cases took so long to litigate because the defendants in the case - Anova Holding, AG, and Becon, AG - are foreign companies based in Switzerland. They allegedly supplied asbestos to the Johns Manville plant from the 1950s to the 1980s.

The plaintiffs' attorneys had to utilize the procedures of international treaties to serve documents upon the defendants.

However, neither company appeared at the hearings nor answered the complaints filed against them.

As a result, the families obtained default judgments against the companies. Viscomi held the hearings from June 20-26 to determine the damages.

Leah Kagan and Moshe Maimon of Levy Konigsberg represented the families at the hearings.

The awards ranged from $4 million to $15 million.

Decedents who suffered take-home exposure allegedly developed their asbestos-related injuries from breathing in asbestos fibers attached to the clothing of family members who worked at the plant.

Those decedents include Virginia Stansley, 81, and her daughter Patricia Lindsey, 58, Debra Ann Ketchum, 49, Donald Greene, 70, Sharon Durlester, 54, and Louise Upshaw, 63.

Decedents who worked at the plant and were allegedly exposed occupationally include Peter Danysh, 64, Francis DiTolvo, 63, Rose Koshinsky, 78, Francis Swinick, 64, and Paul Troth, 76.

Anova and Becon are successors of the Eternit Group, which mined asbestos in South Africa and sold it worldwide.

In February 2012, two former Eternit directors were found guilty of criminal charges of negligence and sentenced to 16 years in prison in connection with asbestos-related deaths.

In June 2013, an Italian appeals court increased defendant Stephan Schmidheiny's sentence to 18 years in prison for causing the death of 3,000 people. Schmidheiny is a Swiss national.

The appeals court dropped charges against defendant Jean-Louis Marie Ghislain de Cartier, a Belgian national, due to his May 2013 death.

Charges were filed against the two because together they held a majority of the company's shares.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Heather Isringhausen Gvillo at asbestos@legalnewsline.com

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