Virginia Court Reverses $17.5 Asbestos Settlement

by Sokolove Law

The Supreme Court of Virginia threw out a $17.5 million asbestos verdict against ExxonMobil, claiming a trial judge improperly excluded evidence.

According to an article in the Daily Press, a local newspaper, Rubert “Bert” Minton was awarded $17.5 million in 2011 after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. He passed away on August 2012, 17 months after his trial. Now the Supreme Court of Virginia says that the judge presiding over the trial blocked evidence improperly. The evidence would have demonstrated that Minton’s employer, Newport News Shipbuilding, clearly knew of the connection between asbestos and diseases.

From World War II until about 1980, shipyards were major asbestos users. From 1966 to 1977, Minton was a repair supervisor on commercial vessels at Newport News Shipbuilding. As supervisor, Minton worked on 17 Exxon commercial oil tankers. Decades later, after his diagnosis for mesothelioma, Minton brought Exxon to court. (Newport News Shipbuilding has immunity from asbestos cases brought by former workers.)

During the March 2011 trial, ExxonMobil wanted to introduce evidence that the shipyard had extensive knowledge of asbestos’ effects. That also would have placed on the shipyard more responsibility for Minton’s mesothelioma. However, a circuit court judge blocked Exxon from doing so, and Minton won.

But on January 21, 2013, the state’s Supreme Court, in a 5-2 ruling, claimed the jury might have rendered a different verdict – if evidence of the shipyard’s culpability been allowed. The “trial court erred in refusing to admit evidence of the shipyard’s knowledge of the dangers of asbestos exposure,” the Supreme Court wrote. It also remanded the case back to Newport News for a second trial.

Have you or a loved one developed mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos in the workplace? Why wait? Call Sokolove Law today for a free legal consultation about a mesothelioma lawsuit.