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Court overturns asbestos award for failure to prove extent of exposure


AUSTIN, Texas—Claimants alleging asbestos-related injury must demonstrate that exposure to products containing asbestos was a "substantial" factor in contracting asbestosis, the Texas Supreme Court has ruled.

In its June 8 decision in Borg-Warner Corp. vs. Arturo Flores, the state court said there was no evidence of exactly how much asbestos Arturo Flores, a retired brake mechanic, had inhaled when working on brake pads made by Borg-Warner.

Mr. Flores had sued Borg-Warner--which is now Burns International Services Corp.--and three other defendants in 2001. He claimed that the asbestos in the Borg Warner pads had caused his asbestosis. A jury found all four defendants liable, although it held Borg-Warner responsible for 37% of the award, and each of the others for 21%. The jury also levied exemplary damages of $55,000 against Borg-Warner for alleged malice.

A state appeals court upheld the jury verdict, but the Texas Supreme Court overturned the decision by holding that the court record did not show how much asbestos Mr. Flores had inhaled.

"A plaintiff must prove that the defendant's product was a substantial factor in causing the alleged harm," wrote Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson for the court. Mr. Flores failed to do so, the court held, and overturned the lower court.

Borg-Warner Corp. vs. Arturo Flores, Supreme Court of Texas, No. 05-0189, decided June 8, 2007.