Lady Justice finds Beaumont

The SE Texas Record Mar. 29, 2008, 10:00am

The verdict is in: a Jefferson County jury chose DuPont over Beaumont "Super Lawyer" Glen Morgan.

Morgan and his client won't get the billions of dollars they sought. The jury won't be putting the company out of business, either, as Morgan suggested.

The jury apparently was unmoved by Morgan's arrogance and combativeness, not to mention his penchant for courtroom hyperbole. Maybe the jury wanted to send a message.

In making his case that DuPont was responsible for the asbestos-related death of one-time independent contractor Willis Whisnant Jr., Morgan painted a very melodramatic picture.

Jurors have emotions, but they're not stupid. They know the difference between hard facts and opinion. They understand the concept of blame, which they can discern from a self-interested stretch when they hear it.

Whisnant, a pipefitter, worked in lots of places over his long career. But Morgan said his work during a few years at DuPont's Sabine Works facility in Beaumont in the late 1960s is what eventually killed him.

Whisnant would have been required to wear a respirator while he worked at Sabine Works around asbestos, but Morgan says the company was reckless and negligent.

Whisnant smoked his whole life and worked in a score of other locations, but it was asbestos present at Sabine Works that caused the disease that led to his death, Morgan alleged.

And there was Morgan's infamous opening statement in which he charged that DuPont and companies like it should be put out of business, its assets presumably transferred from investors and employees to plaintiffs and plaintiff's lawyers like himself. No matter where you stand on the civil justice spectrum, that's a little much.

Morgan isn't used to losing. Not even mentioning his fees on countless settlements, he has secured asbestos courtroom verdicts worth hundreds of millions, according to Texas Monthly magazine. That includes a $130 million asbestos verdict in 2001, reportedly the 13th largest award in the country that year.

Losing on his home court, Morgan has to be disappointed. We aren't. And you shouldn't be, if you care about Jefferson County's reputation of equal justice for all.

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