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The estate of a deceased factory worker and his wife were recently awarded $1.7 million by a Philadelphia jury in the first asbestos case successfully tried against an employer. The award, $1 million to Doris A. Busbey and $700,000 to the estate of John F. Busbey, was made under the Wrongful Death Act and Survival Act. The employer, ESAB Group, was found 100 percent liable for their employee’s mesothelioma and subsequent death.

Verdict a First for Pennsylvania

According to the plaintiff’s attorney, the verdict is a first against an employer for asbestos-related claim in the state since Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court began allowing employees to bring similar cases against their employers. Prior to that, employers were only held liable through the Workers’ Compensation Act.

In November 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the Workers’ Compensation Act does not cover occupational diseases like mesothelioma that can take more than 300 weeks after employment ends to manifest, freeing potential plaintiffs to seek compensation from former employers through civil actions.

A Career of Asbestos Exposure

John Busbey began working at a factory owned by Chemtron Corp., later Alloy Rods Inc. and finally ESAB Group, from 1962 until 2001. Busbey worked in several positions for the company and was frequently exposed to asbestos when he worked close to the welding rod and welding wire ovens.

He was officially diagnosed with mesothelioma in January 2012 and died six months later. Studies from 2008 and 2009 showed plaque and thickening of his lungs, and 2011 and 2012 studies linked those findings to asbestos exposure, according to court documents Evidence of asbestos abatement that the plant underwent between the 1980s through the 2000s was likely effective in convincing the jury.

Once called the “miracle mineral” for its resistance to heat, fire, and various chemicals, asbestos was used in numerous everyday products, including building materials and fireproof protective gear. It is now widely known that asbestos exposure can cause various health problems including mesothelioma, a fatal cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, as well as other cancers and lung-related illnesses.

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