4th Circuit Affirms W&G’s $32.7 Million Jury Verdict for Asbestos Exposure Death of Franklin Finch
On August 24, 2020, the Fourth Circuit affirmed our client’s $32.7 million jury verdict for her husband, Franklin Finch’s, death against insulation company, Covil Corporation. Defendant Covil argued the trial court erred in two ways: 1) Failing to issue proper jury instructions to ensure the plaintiff had to establish frequent and regular exposure in close proximity to asbestos products supplied by Covil under precedent established in Lohrmann, and 2) Failing to conduct a proper review for verdict excessiveness. The court rejected Covil’s arguments.
The decision affirmed the largest plaintiff asbestos death verdict in North Carolina history and clarified that the Lohrmann factors do not need to be repeated verbatim for asbestos plaintiffs to meet their burden of proof (“We reject the notion, advanced by Covil, that Lohrmann must be parroted in the court’s jury instruction.”) The decision also rejected the notion that a verdict must be based on a tangible figure or that the award was speculative, citing the magnitude of Mr. Finch’s pain and suffering and compelling evidence that Mr. Finch had a deep and loving relationship with his wife, children, and grandchildren.
From 1975 to 1995, Franklin “Doc” Finch worked at a Firestone tire plant in Wilson, North Carolina, where he alleged exposed to asbestos-containing pipe and tire press insulation that was supplied and installed by Covil Corporation. In 2016, Mr. Finch was diagnosed as having the asbestos-related cancer of mesothelioma in his abdomen (peritoneum) and lung lining (pleura). Mr. Finch suffered immensely as a result of his diagnosis prior to his death on January 25, 2017. He required multiple lengthy hospitalizations and invasive surgeries in which 28 pounds of cancer and several organs were removed. He also suffered from pain, nausea, vomiting, and the need for a colostomy bag. His death was agonizing and described as a “terrible, terrible course” by his treating doctors. Mr. Finch left behind his wife, Ann Finch, three children, and grandchildren whom he visited with weekly.
Mr. Finch was employed in the Firestone plant’s curing room for all but 8 months of his 20 years at Firestone. During discovery, it was shown that when the Firestone plant was remediated for asbestos in 1990, approximately 7,000 feet of asbestos-containing insulation were removed from the curing room and that material had been place since the plant’s construction in the early 1970s. At trial, Mr. Finch testified that he and others regularly walked on the steam pipe insulation and that the insulation was regularly handled by mechanics repairing the steam pipes. Covil denied supplying all but 711 feet of asbestos-containing steam pipe insulation to Firestone. Covil alleged many relevant insulation documents were destroyed in a fire.
The jury rejected Covil’s arguments and found Covil liable for Mr. Finch’s untimely and painful death.
Our firm continues to represent victims of asbestos exposure before the North Carolina Industrial Commission and in civil claims nationwide. If you have concerns about your health or the health of a loved one as a result of asbestos exposure, please do not hesitate to contact W&G Attorney Bill Graham at 1-800-849-5291.
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