Plaintiff in never-ending asbestos case goes to trial

David Yates Jun. 27, 2007, 4:25am

Mention Case No. B150-374 to any Jefferson County District clerk and they're likely to cringe. Encumbered with thousands of plaintiffs, the asbestos lawsuit is so massive that it fills more than a hundred boxes and hogs about half of the courthouse's district record vault.

First filed in 1994, the suit's original petition has been amended 141 times, with the number of plaintiffs attached to the suit steadily growing every year. One of those plaintiffs, Shirley Melvin, has been severed from the lawsuit and given a trial date, July 7.

With Provost Umphrey attorney Brian Blevins leading the charge, Melvin, representing the estate of Joyce Myers, along with Herbert Myers, will battle the Mobil Oil Corp. and Mobil Oil Refining Corp. in Judge Gary Sanderson's 60th District Court.

The original 1994 lawsuit, Harold Daniels vs. Pittsburg Corning Corp. et al, has been severed roughly 220 times, with pieces of the suit being shipped to Harris County along the way.

The suit's 141st amended petition, filed in August 2006, accuses 68 corporations of mining, manufacturing and distributing asbestos products throughout Jefferson County, naming 31additional defendants than the first suit.

"All of the asbestos products placed in to the stream of commerce by defendants reached the end-product users without substantial change," the suit states. "All of these products were defective and unreasonably dangerous."

Some of the defendants named include Viacom, Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse Electric and General Electric.

"Defendants were all negligent in failing to adequately warn of the dangers of asbestos exposure," the suit said. "Their failure was a proximate cause of plaintiffs' injuries and damages. Defendants were also negligent in failing to adequately test their products to determine the hazards associated with their products."

The petition also faults Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Corp. (3M Corporation) and American Optical Corp. for producing defective masks that failed to "provide respiratory protection."

In the upcoming trial, the plaintiffs will ask jurors to award them a substantial amount of money for physical pain and suffering in the past and future, mental anguish in the past and future, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, disfigurement in the past and future, physical impairment in the past and future, and past and future medical expenses.

Since June 20, 2007, Blevins has filed 13 new severances and added two new plaintiffs to the suit.

The case number going to trial is B150-374-BE

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