$14 Million Verdict Upheld Against Chemical Plant Defendant

SOUTH CAROLINA — A $14 million verdict against Celanese Corporation was upheld on appeal in the mesothelioma case of 70 year old deceased the plaintiff Dennis Seay.  Seay did maintenance and repair work in a Celanese plant as a contractor for Daniel Construction for nine years in the 1970s. In 2015, a South Carolina jury found that Celanese was negligent in running the plant and awarded Seay $12 million dollars in compensatory damages and $2 million dollars in punitive damages.

The appellate court disagreed with Celanese that Seay was a “statutory employee” of the plant, and agreed with the trial court’s finding that Celanese employees and Daniel employees performed “significantly different” jobs. The court further disagreed that a mistrial should have been granted when a juror revealed that he had worked at the plant. The trial court was correct in that there was no evidence of improper influence on the remaining jurors. The court also concluded that a video of Seay suffering while in hospice was not an unacceptable means of demonstrating Seay’s pain and suffering to the jury. Finally, the trial court appropriately compared Seay’s award with the results of other mesothelioma cases, and considering the legislative cap on punitive damages, agreed that the verdict was not excessive.

Only the Westlaw citation is currently available at 2019 WL 575556.