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U.S. Steel Loses Asbestos Lawsuit

March 31, 2003|From Bloomberg News

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — U.S. Steel Corp., North America's biggest producer of raw steel, was ordered by a jury to pay $250 million to a former employee with an uncommon form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure, the worker's lawyer said.

The award is one of the largest to a single plaintiff in an asbestos case in the U.S.

Roby Whittington, 70, was diagnosed in 2001 with mesothelioma, which he said he was exposed to while working at U.S. Steel's Gary Works plant in Gary, Ind., from 1950 to 1981. The company used the fire retardant in insulation. The cancer, in the lining of his lung, is terminal, said John Simmons, head of the Simmons Firm, which represented Whittington.

The verdict, delivered by a Madison County, Ill., jury Friday, includes $50 million in compensatory and $200 million in punitive payments, Simmons said in an interview.

U.S. Steel officials couldn't be reached for comment.

"It's the highest verdict I've ever heard of for a single plaintiff," said Patrick Malouf, a lawyer in Jackson, Miss.

His clients won $150 million in an asbestos product liability case in October 2001.

Asbestos, used through the 1970s, has been tied to cancer and respiratory diseases. Asbestos lawsuits have driven at least 10 companies into Bankruptcy Court since February 2000.

U.S. Steel might appeal the verdict, said Whittington's attorney Randall Bono.

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