Weitz & Luxenberg achieved a landmark $12.5 million verdict against Caterpillar, Inc. in New York County Supreme Court last week on behalf of a mechanic who developed lung cancer.
“Caterpillar chose not to warn the public about the asbestos in its machines for decades, to the detriment of my client and his family,” said Danny R. Kraft Jr., Associate Attorney for Mesothelioma & Asbestos at Weitz & Luxenberg and the lead attorney on the case. “This verdict shows that no matter how big a corporation is, if it engages in business practices that place profit over people, it can and will be held responsible.”
The case focused on the death of George Cooney, a mechanic who worked on Caterpillar forklifts from 1969 to 1978. Mr. Cooney was unaware that throughout his career he was handling brakes, clutches and engine gaskets on Caterpillar forklifts that would contribute to him developing lung cancer decades later. On September 18, 2014, Mr. Cooney passed away at the age of 67 after suffering for over 18 months.
Kraft proved to the jury that while Caterpillar was aware of the dangers of asbestos dating back to the 1930s, and took steps to warn its own employees of the hazards of asbestos exposure, Caterpillar did not place a warning on any of its asbestos containing parts until 1984, well after Mr. Cooney’s last exposure.
Evidence introduced at trial showed that while Mr. Cooney was a smoker, his exposure to asbestos greatly increased his risk for developing lung cancer. Kraft pointed to several studies that showed a synergism between smoking and asbestos exposure, including one study from 1968 showing that people who smoke and are exposed to asbestos have about 92 times the risk of dying from lung cancer as those who do not smoke and are not exposed to asbestos.
Kraft added, “Mr. Cooney was addicted to smoking cigarettes. He could not stop despite trying to for years. Caterpillar, on the other hand, could have stopped selling products containing asbestos at any time, but chose not to. At the very least, they could have warned about the hazards of asbestos on their products. It was abundantly clear throughout this trial that Caterpillar failed mechanics like Mr. Cooney”