New Orleans Jury Awards $10.3M Asbestos Verdict to Former Longshoreman
A New Orleans jury awarded a $10.3 million verdict to a former longshoreman in a rare in-person trial. In the case, Henry Pete v. Boland Marine and Manufacturing Company, the plaintiff was diagnosed with mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure while working for the defendant at the docks.
Henry Pete, the 74-year-old plaintiff from Texas, was represented by Simmons Hanly Conroy attorneys. He contracted mesothelioma cancer in 2019 due to raw asbestos exposure while unloading cargo at the NOLA docks throughout the 1960s.
Asbestos exposure causes various types of lung cancer, including mesothelioma. The dangers of silicate mineral exposure have been known since the 1900s. Health agencies have agreed that it can take decades for cancer to impact one’s health, and there is no safe level of prevention from such exposure.
After his high school graduation, Pete worked as a longshoreman from 1964 to 1968 unloading cargo containing asbestos in burlap bags. He testified that the bags would often tear and cause the mineral’s dust to envelop the ship’s hold.
The $10.3 million verdict was against Ports America Gulfport, Inc., South African Marine (Safmarine), and Cooper T. Smith Stevedoring Co., Inc. The jury, before the Honorable Ethel Simms Julien, awarded compensatory damages of $10,351,020.70 to the plaintiff.
Pete’s award from the jury includes $2 million for past and future physical pain and suffering, $2.3 million for past and future mental pain and suffering, $3 million for past and future physical disability, $2.5 million for past and future loss of enjoyment of life, and more than $551,000 for past medical expenses.
The legal team representing the Pete family in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans included Simmons Hanly Conroy stakeholders — Gary DiMuzio, Melissa Crowe Schopfer, Jean-Michel LeCointre, and Michael K. Hibey, and the Cheek Law Firm, LLC, as their co-counsel.
As the trial’s lead attorney, DiMuzio stated that, “After examining the evidence, the jury found the three companies failed to warn hardworking men like Henry and his family about the dangers of their asbestos cargo.” He further added, “The jury sent a strong message with its verdict. Henry should have never been diagnosed with mesothelioma because he should have never been exposed to asbestos.”
During the trial, Pete testified, “My fear is that I might go to sleep one day and not wake up.”
The trial lasted over two weeks, with the jury evaluating all the evidence for several hours before reaching a verdict.