A South Carolina jury has found Celanese Corporation liable for a worker’s exposure to asbestos at one of the industrial chemical company’s facilities that resulted in a fatal case of mesothelioma, awarding his family $14 million damages. The jury awarded Dennis Seay’s family $12 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages, finding Celanese Corp. negligent in its operation of the plant where Seay worked from about 1971 to 1980. The jury found in favor of John Crane, the maker of the some of the asbestos-containing gaskets that Seay said he worked with. Seay filed the suit in September 2013, a month after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He died in December 2014 at age 70. Seay was employed by Daniel Construction Co., a contractor hired by Celanese.
Chris Panatier, a lawyer for Seay, argued during closing arguments that Celanese had an obligation to audit the safety program at Seay’s employer and that the company was in “complete control” of safety policy on its premises. “This case for Celanese is full of red flags,” Panatier told the jury, stacking piles of articles on asbestos hazards published throughout the 1950s in industrial hygiene research journals throughout the courtroom and placing around two dozen red flags on top. “It wasn’t a company that just maybe heard something, this was a company that received and read this information,” Panatier said. The lawyer who represented Celanese, H. Lane Young, told jurors that the real issue was whether Celanese knew that Daniel Construction was going to subject Seay to exposure.
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