Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ky. jury awards $67.5 million to miners whose defective dust masks (and smoking) caused black lung

A jury in Knott County, Ky., awarded $67.5 million to two former coal miners who alleged that defective dust masks led to their debilitating black-lung disease, one of the largest judgments ever in an Eastern Kentucky civil suit, Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald Leader.

3M Company, which made the masks, was hit with $62.5 million of that total in punitive damages. The rest is for past and future pain and suffering for the defendents, brothers Leslie and Michael Cox.

During the three-week trial, the jury ruled that the respirators were so defective that an ordinarily prudent company wouldn't have put them on the market for use, and that 3M acted with reckless disregard from the Cox brothers' safety. No liability was assigned to the more than one dozen mine employers where the brothers had worked.

But the jury ruled that the brothers' heavy smoking habits contributed to their black lung disease, and that 3M was only responsible for 40 percent of Leslie Cox's lung injury and 30 percent for Michael Cox. "That means 3M would be liable for that percentage of the jury's award for compensatroy damages, which was $3.75 million for Leslie Cox and $1.25 million for Michael Cox," Estep reports. "However, 3M would be liable for all the punitive-damage amount if the judgment stands."

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