As a recent asbestos trial in Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas demonstrated, the litigation strategy of “punishing” the sole non-settling defendant at trial does not always work. In Lombardo v. Unisys, Docket No. #1504-02140, Decedent, Michael Lombardo, died of mesothelioma on November 8, 2014.Mr. Lombardo’s wife sued on behalf of his estate.
During his life, Mr. Lombardo had worked at numerous companies that his estate contended had exposed him to asbestos. The companies included: Beacon Auto Body Corp., from February – July of 1958; the New York shipyard, from April 1959 – February 1960; RCA, from 1960-1972 and Unisys Corporation, from 1972-2004. The original complaint had not named Unisys as a party to the suit, but deposition testimony identified a substantial abatement project with “billowing dust clouds” emanating from containment areas at Unisys during the decedent’s employment. As such, Unisys was subsequently joined to the lawsuit.
Ultimately, all of the named defendants, with the exception of Unisys, settled or were dismissed. The jury’s verdict sheet included only Unisys, along with seven bankruptcy trusts. On December 4, 2019, a jury awarded the plaintiff $3.15 million but found Unisys only 5% liable. This resulted in a verdict in the amount of $157,532.37.
The verdict is significant in that Unisys was able to persuade the jury to apportion greater liability to the bankruptcy trusts. Under Pennsylvania’s Fair Share Act, trial courts permit the jury to apportion fault to all potentially responsible parties. Thus, if the viable defendant or defendants put on evidence regarding exposure to the bankrupt entities’ products, a jury can apportion fault or blame to those trusts.
For more information on the Philadelphia asbestos litigation or on the Fair Share Act, please contact MKC&I’s Damian M. Sammons at (215) 557-1990.