Ohio mesothelioma victim awarded $27.5 million in secondhand asbestos exposure lawsuit

by Jim Orr

Even those who did not work directly with asbestos can be affected by asbestos-caused diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. Such diseases can result from “second-hand” or secondary exposure to asbestos fibers such as, for example, when fibers were brought home on the clothing of someone who did have direct contact with asbestos.

John Panza Jr. of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, is a 40 year-old English professor at Cuyahoga Community College. Panza was diagnosed in 2012 with mesothelioma, a rare and nearly always fatal form of lung cancer. The disease is caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos.

Panza acquired the cancer after years of second-hand exposure to clothing worn by his father, who picked up the asbestos dust at his job at the Eaton Airflex brake company. Panza’s father died of lung cancer in 1994. He had worked at Airflex for 31 years.

Asbestos brake pads at Airflex were manufactured by the former National Friction Products Corp. Kelsey-Hayes Co. is the successor to National Friction Products.

John Jr. and his wife Jane sued Kelsey-Hayes. Following an 11-day trial, a jury has returned a verdict in favor of the Panzas.

The jury awarded John Panza $515,000 in economic damages and $12 million in non-economic damages. The jury awarded his wife, Jane, 37, $15 million for the deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship due to her husband’s disease.

The jury attributed 60 percent of the liability to Kelsey-Hayes, finding that the company’s brake products were defective and primarily responsible for causing Panza’s cancer. The jury placed 40 percent of the liability on Eaton Airflex, which was immune to the lawsuit under Ohio law. Kelsey-Hayes is liable for the entire damages award. The company is expected to appeal.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson and asbestos litigation

Millions of American workers were unknowingly exposed for decades to the health risks of asbestos without being warned by their employers. Besides mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos can increase an individual’s risk of asbestosis, lung cancer, pleural diseases, and other types of cancer or respiratory illness. Individuals who worked with asbestos pipes, brake pads, insulation used in the construction industry, or U.S. Navy and Merchant Marine ships that were outfitted with asbestos parts may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit and seek compensation for the injuries they suffered as a result of their asbestos exposure.

At the law firm of Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we have achieved settlements or verdicts for our clients totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2010 alone, we negotiated wrongful death and personal injury settlements totaling more than $50 million. Our firm has the financial resources to handle asbestos injury and death cases from beginning to end. In many cases, we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a single case in order to bring it to trial. Above all, we are committed to achieving justice for our clients, no matter the cost.

If you or a loved one have been serious injured due to asbestos exposure, contact our law firm for a free legal consultation about your case. You can reach us by calling our toll-free number at 1-877-446-9001, or by completing the free case evaluation form located above you on this page.

by Jim Orr

Jim Orr is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P focusing on business and personal injury litigation. Jim was selected multiple times to the Super Lawyers List and has tried 70+ cases to verdict.