The prognosis for the four plaintiffs in this asbestos personal injury case is grim, according to their attorney, Robert J. Gordon. Each is expected to die soon from an incurable form of cancer. William Falloon, the youngest plaintiff, was diagnosed in 1995 with mesothelioma, a terminal cancer of the lining of the lungs, whose only known cause is exposure to asbestos.
From 1963 to 1975, Mr. Falloon was a pipe coverer at various construction sites in New York. Milton Karasik, 66, and Corindo DeBerardinis, 73, were also recently diagnosed with mesothelioma. Mr. Karasik was a sheet-metal worker at the Brooklyn Navy Yard from 1954 to 1965; Mr. DeBerardinis was a carpenter at various New York construction sites for more than 30 years, until 1975. Frank Pankowitz, a former Coast Guard engineman, was diagnosed with a rarer form of mesothelioma, called peritoneal mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the abdomen.
Each sued more than 20 makers of asbestos and their cases were consolidated for trial. All but three of the defendants settled before trial, for undisclosed sums. The remaining defendants at trial were Westinghouse Electric Corp., Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp. and Worthington Corp.
At trial, the three companies sought to limit damages, said Paul E. Blutman, of New York’s Costello, Shea and Gaffney, which represented Worthington. The companies were not very successful. On Dec. 6, 1995, a New York jury awarded the four plaintiffs one of the largest asbestos awards ever — a total of $64.65 million. The largest share, $22.4 million, went to Mr. Falloon. The other awards were: Mr. Karasik, $16 million; Mr. DeBerardinis, $15 million; Mr. Pankowitz, $11.2 million.
The three defendants, however, are not equally on the hook for these amounts. Their individual liability will be apportioned in a second phase of the trial, which was scheduled to begin in late January. The amount awarded to each plaintiff will be reduced, depending on percentages of liability determined.
The defendants are also entitled to setoffs relating to the earlier settlements. The defendants will appeal the damages verdicts, Mr. Blutman added. “I don’t think they’ll hold up on appellate review.”