New York Jury Awards $35 Million Asbestos Verdict, Finds Recklessness

In Peraica v. Crane Co., (No. 190339/11, N.Y. Sup., New York Co.), a New York County jury awarded $35 million in pain and suffering damages to the estate of a decedent that died of mesothelioma in December 2012.  Plaintiffs alleged that John Peraica contracted the disease as a result of his work as an insulator from 1978 to 2004.  Although numerous defendants were a party to the lawsuit (nearly 40 appeared on the verdict sheet), only Crane Co. remained at trial.  As they often do, Crane Co. argued that plaintiff failed to provide any evidence that Crane Co. manufactured, specified or supplied the asbestos insulation which the decedent allegedly used on its products.  However, the jury found that Crane Co. was 15 percent liable for the decedent’s illness and apportioned the remaining liability amongst the 40 other defendants that had either previously settled out of the action or were bankrupt. 

Critically, the jury also found that Crane Co. acted with reckless disregard for the safety of the decedent.  This finding removes the verdict from the limits set forth in New York’s CPLR §1601 and results in Crane Co. being held jointly and severally liable for the entire amount of the verdict, even though they were only found to be 15 percent liable.

All indications are that Crane Co. will appeal the verdict.  In August 2011, Crane Co. was hit with a $32 million verdict in a similar case that was subsequently reduced substantially by the court.  However, the shear size of the verdict should be a warning to all asbestos defendants of the potential awards and the recklessness finding should be considered when making any analysis of whether to settle or proceed to trial.


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