Texas Supreme Court Cases
Pustejovsky v. Rapid-American Corp., 35 S.W. 3d 643 (Tex. 2000)
In this precedent-setting opinion, the Texas Supreme Court held that a victim of asbestos may later have a second lawsuit for an asbestos-related cancer if he develops the cancer at a future date. The opinion overrules a long history of Texas cases holding that a person may only bring one lawsuit for an asbestos-related injury, even if he develops a second, catastrophic asbestos-related cancer at a much later date.
Owens Corning Fiberglas Corp. v. Malone, 972 S.W.2d 35 (Tex. 1998)
The Texas Supreme Court held that a manufacturer of asbestos-containing products may be held liable for punitive damages even if it had previously paid other punitive damage awards in other cases based on the same wrongful conduct. The court held that the punitive damages award in this case was neither unconstitutional nor excessive given the facts of Owens Corning’s conduct.
Texas Courts of Appeals Cases
Norfolk Southern Ry. Co. v. Bailey, 92 S.W.3d 577 (Tex. App. – Austin 2002, no pet.)
The Austin Court of Appeals affirmed a substantial verdict in favor of a railroad worker who had developed asbestosis. The court rejected the railroad’s argument that the trial court erroneously allowed the jury to consider the worker’s fear of cancer in computing the damage award, finding that the railroad did not lodge an adequate objection to the evidence of cancer.
White v. CBS Corporation, 996 S.W.2d 920 (Tex.App. – Austin 1999, pet. denied)
The Austin Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment which had dismissed the claims of the widow of a mesothelioma victim against defendant Westinghouse Electric Corporation. The court of appeals held that summary judgment was improper because a fact issue remained regarding whether turbines manufactured by Westinghouse around which the widow’s husband worked were already annexed to the property at the time of his exposure, a fact that would determine whether the Texas statute of repose would apply to bar the action.
North American Refractories Company v. Easter, 988 S.W.2d 904 (Tex.App. – Corpus Christi 1999, pet. denied)
The Corpus Christi Court of Appeals upheld a substantial damages award for the victims of asbestos disease and their wives. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to prove the jury’s findings of fact and the amounts of the awards. The court also held that the cases were properly tried together and that the punitive damages awarded were not excessive.
Pittsburgh Corning Corp. v. Walters, 1 S.W.3d 759 (Tex. App. – Corpus Christi 1999, pet. denied)
The Corpus Christi Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment in favor of a widow whose husband developed mesothelioma as a result of his exposure to asbestos. The court held that his widow had the right to bring her wrongful death action in Texas even though she and her husband resided out-of-state; that the court properly applied Texas law to the proceedings; that evidence was properly admitted; and that the evidence supported the award of damages.
Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corporation v. Martin, 942 S.W.2d 712 (Tex.App. – Dallas 1997, no writ)
The Dallas Court of Appeals held that the trial judge properly consolidated for trial the cases of several men who developed asbestos-related disease as a result of their occupational exposure to asbestos.
Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corporation v. Keeton, 922 S.W.2d 658 (Tex.App. – Austin 1996, writ denied)
The Austin Court of Appeals upheld a judgment in favor of workers exposed to asbestos-containing Owens Corning Kaylo. The court held that the trial court properly allowed the jury to see documents written and received by other companies to prove that, because asbestos industry leaders knew of the hazards of asbestos as early as the 1930s, Owens Corning should have known of the dangers associated with its products yet failed to warn the public.
Smith v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 927 S.W. 2d 85 (Tex. App. – Houston 1996, writ denied)
The Houston Court of Appeals (1st District) reversed summary judgment dismissing a wrongful death action brought against two chemical companies by the family of a worker who developed cancer resulting from his occupational exposure to cancer-causing chemicals while employed by the companies. The court held that the family had the right to bring a wrongful death action under the Workers Compensation Act and the Texas Constitution, both of which provide for such actions where death is caused by an employer’s gross negligence or intentional acts.
Keene Corp. v. Belford, 881 S.W.2d 608, (Tex.App. – Corpus Christi 1994, no writ)
The Corpus Christi Court of Appeals upheld a judgment awarding damages to a victim of asbestosis against defendant Keene Corporation. The court held that Keene failed to prove that other manufacturers not at trial were liable to the plaintiff for his injuries.
Keene Corporation v. Rogers, 863 S.W.2d 168 (Tex.App. – Texarkana 1993, writ dism’d)
The Texarkana Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment in a case brought by shipyard workers who developed asbestos-related diseases. In so doing, the court refused to adopt a restrictive test for asbestos exposure that would require victims of asbestos diseases to prove the frequency, regularity, and proximity of their exposure to asbestos emitted by a particular product.
Keene Corp. v. Gardner, 837 S.W.2d 224 (Tex. App. – Dallas 1992, writ denied).
The Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment in favor of a group of workers who developed asbestos-related diseases as a result of their exposure to asbestos-containing products, holding that the jury’s findings of fact were supported by the evidence.
Dow Chemical Co. v. Alfaro, 786 S.W.2d 674 (Tex. 1990), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 1024 (1991)
The Texas Supreme Court held that a 1913 statute abolished the doctrine of forum non conveniens, under which a court could dismiss a case brought by a foreign plaintiff even if the court had jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter of the suit. The decision allowed more than 500 Costa Rican farm workers who were made sterile by a pesticide that had been manufactured (and later banned) in the United States to collect compensation from the manufacturers. The Texas Legislature has since adopted new statutes reinstituting the doctrine of forum non conveniens.
Wall v. Owens-Corning Fibreglas Corp., 602 F.Supp. 252 (N.D. Tex. 1985)
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled that the Texas Discovery Rule applies to negligent actions involving latent injuries such as asbestos-related disease. The court also ruled that a successor corporation is liable for punitive damages based on the conduct of its predecessor corporation who manufactured asbestos-containing products, because “[t]he acquiring corporation cannot accept the good without the bad…and jettison inchoate liabilities into a never-never land of transcorporate limbo.”
Pittsburgh Corning Corp. v. Thomas, 668 S.W.2d 876 (Tex. App. Houston [14th Dist.] 1984, no writ)
The Houston Court of Appeals (14th District) held that venue was proper in a Brazoria County court because Mr. Thomas, who died of an asbestos-related disease, was exposed to asbestos while working as an insulator for 30 years at Dow Chemical in Brazoria County.
Privitt v. City of Irving, 666 S.W.2d 541 (Tex. App. Corpus Christi 1983, writ ref’d n.r.e.)
In this employment rights case, members of the City of Irving Fire Department brought suit against the City for overtime pay. After the trial court dismissed the case on summary judgment, the Corpus Christi, Texas Court of Appeals reinstated the case, by holding that dispatchers who did not themselves perform firefighting duties may have the right to overtime pay under Texas law.
Results depend on the facts of each case.