American Optical Corporation Hit With $22M Verdict, $10M Punitive Damages in Asbestos Exposure Lawsuit

On April 26, 2016, a California jury decided to punish American Optical Corporation (AOC) with $10 million in punitive damages, tacking on to the $22 million verdict awarded to the plaintiffs on April 22. After a month-long trial that included the suit being removed to a California district court and remanded back down to the Los Angeles Superior Court, the jury deliberated for one day before determining that the AOC marketed a faulty respirator that exposed machinist Louis Tyler to asbestos.

Thus far, AOC’s attorney has attempted to shift the blame, arguing that a respirator should be the “last level of defense” and that the owners of the foundry where Tyler worked from 1972-91did not do enough to adequately control the dust in their shop or measure the asbestos levels. Ultimately, however, the jurors determined that not only was AOC liable for this exposure, it also acted with “malice, fraud or oppression” in its conduct that led to Tyler contracting mesothelioma.

While the jury found AOC responsible for 70 percent of the couple’s suffering, because this was an intentional tort case, AOC owes the full $22 million plus $10 million in punitive damages. The damages include past and future economic damages and medical expenses for Louis Tyler and his wife, compensation for his pain, mental suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, and his wife’s past and future loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, moral support, and sexual relations.

Obviously disappointed with this outcome, the company released the following statement: “[w]hile we sympathize with individuals who suffer from asbestos-related injuries, the evidence in this case does not support the plaintiff’s claim that American Optical’s protective equipment was responsible for his illness. The company is disappointed with the jury’s verdict and is exploring its legal options, including appellate remedies, because it believes there is no basis in law or fact for this decision.”

Read the full decision here.