A Syracuse, New York, jury has returned a $7.7 million verdict in a wrongful death suit brought against bus manufacturer Navistar International Corp. by the widow of a school bus driver who died of mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos in the school district’s garage.
The verdict came on December 19 and is the largest asbestos award ever in Syracuse, according to attorneys for the widow. The driver began working for the Fayetteville-Manlius School District in the 1950s, Law360 reports. According to court documents, he regularly spent time in the district garage, clocking in and out, submitting work orders, and speaking with mechanics. He was exposed to asbestos released into the air when work was done on buses that had asbestos-containing parts. He died from mesothelioma in 2012. The fatal lung disease is linked to exposure to asbestos.
The American Lung Association says approximately 70 to 80 percent of mesothelioma cases are caused by occupational exposure, and the disease usually takes years to develop. Asbestos fibers build up in the lungs, causing scarring and inflammation, and can affect breathing and lead to asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, according to the National Institutes of Health. Asbestos was widely used for much of the twentieth century as an insulator and fireproofing material, often mixed with other materials to add heat- and fire-resistant properties to building materials, machine and appliance parts, and fabrics. Workers in many industries were exposed to asbestos and have developed asbestos-related illnesses.
On December 4, another Syracuse jury returned a $400,000 verdict in an asbestos suit brought against commercial flooring manufacturer American Biltrite Inc. and other defendants, but found the companies to each only be 3.57 percent liable for plaintiff John Colasanti’s 25 percent liability for his cancer, thus drastically reducing the amount of actual damages awarded, Law360 reports.