Jury Returns Defense Verdict for John Crane, But Awards $14 million against Celanese
On October 8, 2015, a South Carolina jury found Texas-based materials company Celanese Corp. liable in a lawsuit brought by the family of a maintenance worker who died of cancer after being exposed to asbestos at one of Celanese’s plants in the 1970s.
After two weeks of trial, the jury unanimously awarded the family of Dennis Seay $12 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages as a result of Celanese’s negligence. John Crane, the second defendant in the case and the maker of some of the asbestos-containing gaskets, was not found liable.
Chris Panatier, the Seay family’s attorney, focused his argument on the fact that Celanese had total control of the safety policy on its premises. He further argued that Celanese had an obligation to review the safety program at Seay’s employer, a contractor hired by Celanese. In response, Celanese claimed that the issue should be whether Celanese knew that the contractor was going to subject Seay to the asbestos exposure. Finally, defendant John Crane successfully argued that while Seay was exposed to several asbestos-containing insulation products, the exposure that occurred as a result of the gaskets would have made up a mere .035 percent of the total.