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Court orders new trial in asbestos lawsuit

A man who was awarded more than $15 million dollars in an asbestos lawsuit against his former employers will have to wait even longer to receive his damages after a new trial was ordered in his case. The reason for the order, the court said, was the improper use of evidence during the jury trial.

In the Mississippi asbestos lawsuit, the plaintiff claimed that his employer CPChem, a joint venture between Chevron Corp. and Conoco Phillips Corp., had knowingly shipped a product containing inhalable asbestos. That product, which the company knew to be dangerous, was used for 20 years in the oil and gas well drilling industry.

As a result of his asbestos exposure, the plaintiff has been diagnosed with an undisclosed lung ailment, and has had to be on oxygen support 24 hours per day.

Following a jury trial, the plaintiff was awarded $15.2 million in damages. CPChem appealed, claiming that the plaintiff's personal injury attorney had wrongly read from drilling records during the cross-examination of the defendant's medical expert. Those records had not been admitted into evidence and were largely irrelevant, CPChem claimed, because they were from sites at which the plaintiff had not worked.

The state Supreme Court agreed, finding that the trial judge erred in allowing the plaintiff's attorney to reference the records. The court did, however, dismiss the defendant's claim that the plaintiff had violated the state statute of limitations when filing his asbestos lawsuit.

The court ordered a new trial in the case. It is not yet known when that trial will take place.

Source: Clarion Ledger, "New trial ordered in asbestos case," Jack Elliot Jr., June 7, 2012

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