Steel Workers’ Families Win $3.97 Million in Md. Asbestos Case

July 23, 2007

The families of three former Bethlehem Steel workers were awarded $3.97 million in a Maryland asbestos case the plaintiffs’ attorney said was the first of hundreds such cases.

The plaintiffs had sued General Electric in Baltimore Circuit Court over asbestos-lined industrial brakes used in cranes and other equipment at the mill.

Attorney Mike Edmonds, who represented the plaintiffs, said juries are willing to give awards in industrial-brake cases similar to those in automotive brake cases.

“The brake manufacturers and General Electric had taken a fairly strong position that they didn’t want to pay what people in Baltimore have received for asbestos-related injury claims, and I think this points out to them that the injuries from the brakes are just like the traditional brake cases and the values are similar,” Edmonds said.

GE spokesman Gary Sheffer said the company disagrees with the verdict and plans to appeal.

The three steelworkers, Henry Copland, Dennis Ellison and Elihu Alford, died of lung cancer that their families argued was caused by the brakes on cranes and the mill motor used to transport steel. GE argued that its brakes did not give off dangerous fibers and that the men’s lung cancer was caused by other materials at the Sparrows Point steel mill.

Seven plaintiffs originally filed suit, but four were dismissed on summary judgment. The case also had between 15 and 20 defendants at first, but all were either dismissed or settled with the plaintiffs, Edmonds said.

Copland’s family received $1.205 million, Ellison’s family received $760,000 and Alford’s family was awarded $1.96 million. Edmonds had asked for between $3.5 million and $5 million per family, based on government figures for computing the value of a human life.

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Information from: The (Baltimore) Daily Record,
http://www.mddailyrecord.com

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