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Mesothelioma victim's family wins asbestos award

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A federal jury in Arizona has awarded a total of $17 million to the surviving spouse and children of a worker who died of mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos.

In December 2012, George Coulbourn filed a product liability action in Mohave County Superior Court. He alleged he was exposed to companies' asbestos-containing products and/or machinery while working as a machinist for the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia, from 1959 to 1966, court records show.

After Mr. Coulbourn died of mesothelioma in August 2013, his spouse and children amended his complaint and brought a wrongful death action, records show.

On Friday, following a three-week trial, a U.S. District Court of Arizona federal jury awarded $6 million to Mr. Coulbourn's widow, Sandra Brown Coulbourn, and $1 million to each of his three children, George Charles Coulbourn Jr., Scott Alan Coulbourn and Shannon Coulbourn Moses, according to court records and a statement by the family's lawyers at Dallas-based Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett P.C.

Among the more than 20 defendants are Stamford, Connecticut-based industrial products company Crane Co., which was ordered to pay Mr. Coulbourn's family $5 million in punitive damages, and Cincinnati, Ohio-based valve manufacturer William Powell Company, which was ordered to pay $3 million in punitive damages, according to the verdict.

In addition to the $17 million award, the jury found the U.S. Navy to be 47% responsible for Mr. Coulbourn's injuries and death. Meanwhile, it found Crane and William Powell to be responsible for 20% and 5%, respectively, while other defendants were assessed a 1% or 0% responsibility rating.

Asbestos is addressed in U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards for the construction industry, general industry and shipyard employment sectors. The standards require that “employers provide personal exposure monitoring to assess the risk and hazard awareness training for operations where there is any potential exposure to asbestos,” among other things.