Attorneys Aaron Heckaman and Robert Cowan successfully secured an $11.5 million jury verdict in St. Louis, Missouri Circuit Court for Jeanette Poage, the widow of James Poage, who died of mesothelioma in May of 2012. $10 million was awarded for punitive damages, and $1.5 million was awarded in compensatory damages, which was later reduced to $822,250 pursuant to Missouri statute. On appeal, the court of appeals, in a unanimous decision, upheld the verdict.
Mr. Poage served as a machinist on the USS Haynsworth, a World War II-era ship where he helped upkeep the valves, which included replacing packing and gaskets from 1954 to 1958. Mrs. Poage alleged in her wrongful death and personal injury lawsuit that some of the parts Mr. Poage worked on contained asbestos. Many of those asbestos-containing parts were proven to be produced by Crane Co. and caused her husband to inhale asbestos dust and eventually develop mesothelioma.
Following the favorable verdict, Crane Co. appealed the decision, arguing that there wasn’t enough evidence to find the company liable, and that even if they could be found liable, the amount of punitive damages should be reduced because it exceeds Missouri’s statutory cap, goes beyond “fair and reasonable compensation” and violates Crane’s due process.
After the trial, Crane Co. followed up by filing post-trial motions on October 14, 2015, for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, a new trial, remittitur, and/or an amendment to the judgment based on their assertion that Mrs. Poage failed to present sufficient evident to support her case. After all those trial motions were decided, Crane Co. appealed.
The Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District heard the case and affirmed the trial court’s judgment, writing in the decision that:
“…common sense tells us more frequent exposure, lengthier exposure, and being in close proximity to asbestos dust will all increase the likelihood of causing mesothelioma. In the present case, the jury found Crane’s valves “directly caused” or “directly contributed to case” Mr. Poage’s mesothelioma, thus finding Crane’s asbestos-laden valves were the cause in fact of his injury.”
You can read the full 43-page decision here (PDF). We are proud to see that justice was upheld and that Mrs. Poage has again prevailed in court. If you or someone you love was diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our Houston attorneys at Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC by giving us a call at (888) 367-7160 or by filling out our online form today to discuss your case and begin planning out your next step.