Suit alleges insurance company conspired to conceal dangers of asbestos

David Yates Jun. 23, 2008, 9:15am

Brent Coon & Associates attorney Tina Bradley has filed a suit against 14 defendants, alleging chemical companies like Union Carbide acted with tortious indifference by exposing her client to asbestos and that insurance companies like MetLife conspired to conceal the truth about the hazards of the mineral.

The suit was filed on behalf of Jerry Martin and his wife Barbara on June 20 in the Jefferson County District Court. Some of the defendants include Able Supply Co., Freeman Hardware and Pump Co. and Garlock Inc.

Since the suit names at least one Texas-based defendant, Freeman Hardware, Bradley is asserting jurisdiction is proper in Jefferson Court and is asking the suit not be removed to federal court.

According to the original petition, Martin worked with and installed asbestos products throughout the county while employed by Freeman from 1962 through 1970.

"The illnesses and disabilities of Martin are a direct and proximate result of the negligence of each Defendant and/or its predecessor-in-interest in that said entities manufactured, distributed, designed, sold � and put into the stream of commerce, asbestos-containing products, including asbestos-containing pipe � which Martin worked around," the suit says.

The suit goes on to say defendant Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. was also negligent in failing to convey and actively suppressing information regarding the dangers of asbestos.

"The defendant, an insurer of the major asbestos manufacturers, had unique knowledge of the asbestos disease and experience of its insurers," the suit says.

"In order to minimize its claims and maximize its profits, MetLife aided and abetted the concealment and misrepresentation of scientific studies showing that asbestos could cause cancer in animals, participated in an industry-wide fraud and decades-long deception of government authorities and the workers who used and handled the asbestos products of its insurers.

"The concealment was done negligently, fraudulently, intentionally and with actual conscious indifference to the victims of asbestos poisoning and with the intent to elicit the reliance and forbearance of those to whom its misrepresentations were directed. The conduct of MetLife was a proximate or producing or legal cause of the harm to Martin."

On top of exemplary damages, the plaintiffs are suing 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, plus attorneys' fees.

The case has been assigned to Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th Judicial District.

Case No. B181-944

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