In November, 2012, then 64 year old Marlena Robaey was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. She then sued several companies alleging that she’d contracted mesothelioma from her exposure over many years to asbestos from their automotive gaskets in car engines.
On January 20, 2017, a Manhattan jury ruled in plaintiff’s favor and awarded her pain and suffering damages in the sum of $50,000,000 ($40,000,000 past – four and a half years, $10,000,000 future – one year). The trial judge reduced the pain and suffering award to $16,000,000 ($12,000,000 past, $4,000,000 future).
In Robaey v. Air & Liquid Systems Corp.. (1st Dept. 2020), the pain and suffering award was further reduced to $9,500,000 ($5,500,000 past, $4,000,000 future).
Here are the injury details:
- malignant mesothelioma epithelioid type with tumor spreading upon diagnosis
- numerous invasive procedures and surgeries including complete hysterectomy, oophorectomy (removal of ovaries), omentectomy (removal of peritoneum connecting stomach with other organs), chemotherapy and a debulking procedure (involving resection of the right hemidiaphragm and small bowel)
- chronic and continuing pain (especially in abdomen and lungs), extreme shortness of breath, systemic cytotoxic therapy (causing nausea, vomiting and diarrhea), depression and fear of impending death
Defendants argued that the verdict was wildly excessive and noted that for a total of about 25 months since her diagnosis plaintiff’s disease had been stable and her primary reported symptoms were fatigue, shortness of breath upon exertion and mild pain. Furthermore, they noted that plaintiff had pre-existing conditions unrelated to asbestos exposure including type two diabetes, chronic kidney disease (that left her facing permanent dialysis) and pancreatitis.
The jury also awarded loss of consortium damages to plaintiff’s husband in the sum of $25,000,000 ($15,000,000 past, $10,000,000 future) which was reduced by the trial judge to $1,250,000 ($1,000,000 past, $250,000 future). The appellate court further reduced the consortium award to $900,000 ($650,000 past, $250,000 future).
- Plaintiff died from her injuries on May 30, 2017, at the age of 68 years.
- Defendants objected to several aspects of plaintiff’s closing argument including counsel’s reference to the defense pulmonology expert, James D. Crapo, M.D., as “Full of Crapo.” The trial judge issued instructions to the jury to disregard any improper remarks.