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New York’s highest court on Tuesday affirmed dismissal of an $11 million jury verdict against Ford Motor Co. in connection with an auto mechanic’s death from asbestosis.
In a 4-1 ruling, the New York Court of Appeals affirmed a February 2017 ruling by the New York Supreme Court’s appellate division in the case, In the Matter of New York City Asbestos Litigation, Mary Juni et al., in a single paragraph.
According to the appellate division ruling, Arthur Juni, who subsequently died in March 2014, claimed his mesothelioma was caused by his exposure to asbestos-containing products while he worked as an auto mechanic. His widow Mary pursued the case after his death.
After the jury awarded the $11 million in the case, the trial court granted Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford Motor Co.’s motion to set aside the verdict, which was affirmed by the appellate division.
“As the trial court pointed out, plaintiff was obliged to prove not only that Juni’s mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos, but that he was exposed to sufficient levels of the toxin from his work on brakes, clutches, or gaskets, sold or distributed by defendant to have caused his illness,” the ruling said.
“The evidence presented by plaintiff here was insufficient because it failed to establish that the decedent’s mesothelioma was a result of his exposure to a sufficient quantity of asbestos in friction products sold or distributed by defendant Ford Motor Company,” said the 3-1 ruling.
In its ruling Tuesday, the Court of Appeals said, “Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, the evidence was insufficient as matter of law to establish that respondent Ford Motor Company’s conduct was a proximate cause of the decedent’s injuries pursuant to the standards set forth” in previous rulings.
The dissenting opinion states that “the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict that Ford was a substantial cause of Mr. Juni’s illness” and “should stand.”
A panel of New York judges ruled earlier this month that an American International Group Inc. unit must defend the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and several contractors against scores of asbestos claims brought by construction workers on the original World Trade Center.
Insurers’ response to the prospect of insuring asbestos products is likely to be lukewarm at best, assuming a proposed framework by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that would create new opportunities for “new uses” of asbestos comes to fruition.