A jury has awarded $995,600 to a Lynn Haven woman suing over her husband’s death, the Panama City News-Herald reported April 29. Betty McBride was continuing the lawsuit filed by her and her husband, Woodrow McBride, against former employers and parts manufacturers they believe exposed him to asbestos. As a result, they argued, Woodrow McBride developed mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer of the internal tissues. He died in September of 2006, a month after the lawsuit was filed.
Woodrow McBride had worked at two power plants in the Panhandle between 1968 and 1996. During that time, the McBrides’ lawsuit charged, he was exposed to asbestos, a known carcinogen, though the installation and maintenance of Foster Wheeler brand boilers insulated with the substance. In the suit, the McBrides named Foster Wheeler and fifteen other companies they believed had contributed to the asbestos exposure. In its decision, the jury found that products from Foster Wheeler and a company not part of the lawsuit, Gulf Power, made products that caused the illness. It apportioned 25% of the blame to Foster Wheeler, 60% to Gulf Power and 1% to each of the remaining defendants. Because Gulf Power was never part of the claim, it does not have to pay its share of the damages.
Asbestos exposure is a common subject of lawsuits because it is the only known risk factor for mesothelioma, a rare but deadly cancer of the tissues lining the chest. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once widely used in industry; it is composed of tiny fibers that human beings can inhale but not exhale. Once the fibers are inside the victim’s body, they get stuck in the lungs and are eventually absorbed by the body, resulting in cancer anytime from 10 to 60 years later. Because this cancer is frequently detected late, and because its location near vital body organs makes surgery difficult, the prognosis for most victims is grim. Though some patients live with the disease for years, most, like Woodrow McBride, die within 18 months of diagnosis.