The Record from Hackensack, New Jersey on June 5, 1980 · 10
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The Record from Hackensack, New Jersey · 10

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Hackensack, New Jersey
Issue Date:
Thursday, June 5, 1980
Page:
10
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A 10 THE RECORD, THURSDAY, JUNE 5. 1980 BERGENPASSAICHUDSON COUNTIES, NEW JERSEY Judge rules out further damages in asbestos case Los Angeles Times News Service LOS ANGELES - Former Long Beach Naval Shipyard worker Richard J. Ho-gard, who last week won $1.2 million in a precedent-setting case that could affect thousands of asbestos workers, cannot collect additional punitive damages from two asbestos manufacturers, a judge has ruled. Superior Court Judge Earl F. Riley's decision yesterday ended the six-week trial and cleared the way for Hogard to challenge the punitive damages ruling and for the manufacturers to appeal the jury award. The jury had voted May 27, by the bare 9-3 majority necessary in civil cases, to award Hogard $1,229,491 in compensa-1 tory damages after finding that asbestos manufacturers, Johns-Manville Corp. and Raybestos-Manhattan Inc., failed to warn the pipe insulator of the hazards of working with their products. Hogard, 40, of St. James, Mo., contends that his 10 years of working with asbestos insulation materials caused him to get asbestosis, an irreversible scarring that causes the lungs to shrink and inhibits breathing. In dismissing the jurors yesterday, Riley said he had decided that punitive damages were unwarranted because of three major reasons: Hogard's lawyer, Robert B. Steinberg, planned to base much of his case for punitive damages on manufacturers' memos from the 1940s, indicating that they knew of asbestos hazards and did nothing to protect workers. California's product liability law, under which the case was tried, was established in 1963, and Hogard only began working at the shipyard in 1965. Therefore, Riley said using earlier evidence was "illogical, improper and simply unfair." Secondly, he sid, the manufacturers simply sold asbestos-containing products the U.S. Navy, designed to meet Navy specifications, and to equate meeting those specifications with the fraud, malice, willful misconduct or concealment necessary to award punitive damages would be "totally inequitable." Thirdly, the judge said, any purported fraud, malice, willful misconduct, or concealment must be directed specifically at the plaintiff. It would be improper to award punitive damages to Hogard, first exposed to asbestos in 1965, he said, because of any wrongdoing that occurred against other asbestos workers in the 1930s and 1940s. Asbestos phased out of products Manufacturers had phased asbestos out of their insulating products completely by 1972, and thus established during the trial that they voluntarily placed warn ing labels on their products in 1964. Hogard left the shipyard on disability pension in 1975 after a doctor advised him to get away from asbestos, so he no longer works with their products. Still elated and a little dazed by his huge verdict last week, Hogard said he was not upset by yesterday s ruling. Steinberg said the $1.2-miIlion award was the highest in the country so far among asbestos cases that have involved a single injured worker, although higher awards have been granted to families of workers who died. Over 1,000 cases are pending More than 1,000 cases are pending In the court here, and numerous other simi lar cases have been filed elsewhere, in cluding many in U.S, District Court in Newark. Steinberg said Hogard's victory could influence them, perhaps by forestalling trials on grounds that the issues have already been litigated, and by set ting guidelines for settlements. Steinberg said he is inclined to appeal KHey s decision, and plans to seek punitive damages in the more than 100 simi lar cases he is handling for other asbestos workers. "We think the conduct of the defen dants can be fairly characterized as con scious disregard for the safety of people who had to work with their products," Steinberg said. "They chose not only to ignore it but to consciously disregard it, and that is the test for punitive damages in California. Johns-Manville attorney Fulton Haight and Raybestos lawyer John Norby believed they were partially vindicated by Riley's ruling that punitive damages were improper. They said they will seek a new trial and ask Riley to alter the jury s verdict. pop. bob aoldstein the men's store in rutherford FATHER'S DAY IS JUNE 15th J i t w FARAH Slacks for Father's Day, and the other 365 days from$18 t Iff v : ' k w Undecided? Givt Dad a Bob Goldstein Gift Certificate bob qoldstein 56 park avenue, rutherford, n.. 935-5058 OPEN DAILY TO 6 . 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