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$38 Million Verdict for Smoker with Lung Cancer from Asbestos

September 12, 2023
Home Firm News $38 Million Verdict for Smoker with Lung Cancer from Asbestos

Weitz & Luxenberg attorneys won a $38 million trial verdict against Burnham LLC on behalf of our client. The jury found Burnham 85% responsible for the harm our client suffered — in spite of his prior history of smoking. Burnham was also found to be reckless, and punitive damages were awarded.

Our client, Romeo Maffei, was diagnosed with lung cancer from asbestos exposure. He is a 66-year-old construction demolition worker who did a lot of work on boilers to earn his living.

Attorneys at W&L Work as a Team

W&L attorney, Brandon Harris Perlman was the lead attorney in our legal case. He discusses the courtroom victory, saying, “Companies will try to intimidate you. You need attorneys who go toe to toe with them. W&L has, for 35+ years, applied our knowledge, capabilities, experience, and resources to out-punch companies such as Burnham. We want to do everything we can to make sure our clients get justice.”

The W&L trial team also included attorneys Pierre Ratzki and IIya Kharkover. The team is based in our New York City office. All three attorneys focus on asbestos exposure legal cases.

After the verdict was announced, Mr. Perlman shares, “Our team worked around the clock, night and day. Clients need a law firm that actually cares about them. W&L attorneys care about the clients we represent — and we advocate for them to the fullest extent of the law.”

Client With History of Smoking

Mr. Maffei, and his wife Rosa, filed suit against Burnham after he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Even though Mr. Maffei had been a smoker for 40 years, he also had almost 20 years of occupational exposure to asbestos as a construction worker.

This indicated that smoking was only a part of what caused his lung cancer. It was determined that his occupational exposure to asbestos substantially contributed to his grim diagnosis.

Occupational Exposure Caused Lung Cancer

Mr. Maffei’s occupational exposure to asbestos came during the 1970s and 80s — when he worked with hundreds of Burnham boilers. Over the years, he worked on boilers at both residential and commercial sites.

Our client’s work entailed ripping out boilers containing asbestos insulation, gaskets, and various other asbestos components. Sometimes he would have to smash these components to remove them.

This type of work activity creates dust laced with asbestos. When this asbestos is inhaled, it eventually causes damage to your lungs.

Asbestos Laced Dust

Inhaling asbestos laced dust is a primary route of exposure for workers who handle asbestos and the products containing it.

Asbestos is a natural mineral made up of flexible fibers. It can lodge in your lungs and do damage for decades, without any symptoms.

Manufacturer Tried to Deny Responsibility

In court, Burnham argued smoking solely contributed to Mr. Maffei’s lung cancer diagnosis, rather than his occupational exposure to asbestos. Burnham maintained that lung cancer from asbestos required an additional diagnosis of asbestosis. Asbestosis is a completely different, noncancerous, unrelated scarring disease caused by asbestos exposure. Our client did not have asbestosis.

Smoking is toxic and can lead to lung cancer, said Burnham’s attorneys. However, Mr. Perlman, and the rest of our legal team, countered that — while Mr. Maffei had a prior history of smoking — asbestos is also toxic. The asbestos, in combination with smoking, greatly contributed to Mr. Maffei’s diagnosis because of his repeated exposures over a long period of time.

Burnham Found Negligent

Our W&L team showed Burnham was negligent. The jury also found that Burnham acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others, and that its conduct was wanton and malicious. This is because the company, for years, failed to warn workers — or the public — of the asbestos content of their boiler products.

In fact, while the connection between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma and other lung cancers is very well documented, no warning labels appear on any of Burnham’s boiler products — to this day. Burnham knowingly put profits over employee and customer health.

Mr. Perlman explains, “What we presented to the court and to the jury was the truth. We are thrilled that the truth prevailed and that our client has gotten compensation for what he is going through and the justice he deserves!”

Winning Asbestos Lawsuits for Clients

Attorneys at W&L have been winning legal cases for asbestos exposure clients for decades. We do our best to get compensation for clients harmed by corporate negligence. Here are just a few of our many legal successes for people who deserved them:

  • In another case of cancer from asbestos exposure, W&L won $43 million in damages for our client. He was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma.
  • Our team also achieved a win with a $40 million trial verdict. Our client was diagnosed with asbestos cancer after working on the internal parts of electric motors.
  • We had another trial verdict win, for $23 million, for our client. A steamfitter working with gaskets and valves was diagnosed with cancer due to asbestos exposure.

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