Richland County

Richland County jury awards $38 million in asbestos case

jmonk@thestate.comSeptember 12, 2013 

A Richland County jury has awarded a Wagener equipment worker and his wife $38 million in damages for health problems linked to exposure to asbestos.

Following a 21/2-week trial, the jury awarded plaintiff Lloyd Strom Garvin, 74, $10 million in actual damages and another $1 million in actual damages to his wife of 50-plus years, Velda Garvin, for loss of consortium.

The jury also ordered defendants Durco and Crane Co. to pay $11 million each in punitive damages to Lloyd Garvin. It ordered a third defendant, Byron Jackson, to pay $5 million in punitive damages.

A spokesman for Crane said Thursday the company will appeal. Among possible grounds for appeal are “no credible evidence” and excessive and unwarranted jury awards, said Terry Budd, a Pittsburgh lawyer who represents Crane.

“The verdict is flawed,” Budd said. “We’re definitely appealing.”

Efforts to reach Charleston attorney Tim Bouch, who represented Durco and Byron Jackson during the trial, were unsuccessful Thursday.

Durco, Byron Jackson and Crane are major companies that manufacture pumps and valves. Garvin contended his years of exposure to their asbestos-containing gaskets and packing in valves and pumps that he used in factory and farm work caused him to develop mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that plaintiffs said was nearly always caused by asbestos exposure.

The jury was out some four hours and returned a final verdict around 9 p.m. Wednesday night. Circuit Judge Garrison Hill of Greenville presided.

Originally, Garvin’s lawsuit named 13 defendants, but most had been dropped or settled by the time the trial began Aug. 26.

Garvin’s lawyers, Jessica Dean of Dallas and Theile McVey of the Columbia firm Kassel McVey, argued at trial that defendants Crane, Durco and Byron Jackson used asbestos in their products, should have known about its dangers and failed to take action to warn and protect people like Garvin who work around their products.

Garvin’s testimony and cross-examination during trial was presented to the jury by a video recording displayed on a large courtroom screen.

He is currently recovering from double pneumonia. His lawyers contended at trial that he has less than a year to live because of his cancer.

During closing arguments, Garvin’s attorney Dean asked the jury to award $1 million in actual damages for each year of life that Garvin was expected to miss because of his fatal disease. Garvin’s life expectancy would have been another 10 to 11 years, she argued.

Attorney Robert Meriwether of the Columbia firm Nelson Mullins and Bouch were the defendants’ attorneys during trial.

According to a complaint in 2012 action, some of Lloyd Garvin’s exposure to asbestos-containing equipment and products came in Wagener while working on his family farm, as well as while working as a heavy equipment operator in West Columbia and Aiken.

The trial took place in Richland County because the complaint, filed in 2012, alleged some of the exposure had a Richland County connection.

Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.

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