NYCAL Verdict Reduced from $60M to $29M U.S. Supreme Court, New York County, September 21, 2018
NEW YORK — The plaintiff was diagnosed with mesothelioma in April 2015 (55 years old) and passed away about fifteen (15) months later in July 2016. Thereafter, in October 2015, the plaintiff’s estate brought suit in NYCAL against a number of defendants alleging that the decedent’s mesothelioma diagnosis and death was caused by decedent’s exposure to asbestos from products that were manufactured, distributed, and/or sold by the defendants. This case ultimately went to trial and was presided over by Justice Manuel Mendez. In April 2018, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff with a total award of $60M, which was broken down as follows: $25M for pain and suffering (15 months); $17M to decedent’s son and $18M to decedent’s daughter, in compensation for the loss of parental guidance from their father. This award for loss of parental guidance was intended to compensate the decedent’s two children over a period of 21 years.
The defendant moved to set aside a jury verdict and for a new trial under CPLR §4404(a). Alternatively, defendant argued the jury’s award for pain and suffering and loss of parental guidance should be substantially reduced as the verdict was against the weight of the evidence and excessive. The plaintiff opposed the motion and argued that the verdict should remain in-tact because it is not against the weight of the evidence and that the amount of damages is fair and reasonable. However, if the court were inclined to reduce the amount of damages, the plaintiff argued it should be a modest reduction and not a steep reduction as proposed by the defendant.
The court found that the jury verdict was supported by legally sufficient and uncontroverted evidence, and could have been reached on a fair interpretation of all the evidence submitted to the jury. Further, the jury weighed the evidence presented to determine both liability and damages. Thus, there was no basis on the record to disturb the jury’s determination regarding the weight to be that evidence. However, while the jury verdict could have been reached on a fair interpretation of the evidence presented, the court found the awards for the decedent’s pain and suffering, and for the loss of parental guidance for decedent’s children, deviated materially from what can be considered reasonable compensation.
Accordingly, the court issued a decision granting the defendant’s motion to set aside the verdict for a new trial on damages UNLESS, within 30 days, the plaintiff stipulates to a reduction in the award for the decedent’s pain and suffering from $25M to $10M; a reduction in the award for decedent’s son from $17M to $9M; and a reduction in the award of decedent’s daughter from $18M to $10M. This equates to a total remittitur from $60M to $29M.
We will continue to monitor any further updates on this verdict.