CLEVELAND (April 7, 2000)—The family of a deceased auto mechanic has won one of the largest asbestos-related, wrongful death lawsuits in Ohio history.
Judge Harry Hannah of Ohio´s Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, on Feb. 23, ordered Nationwide Brake & Alignment Centers of Maple Heights, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb, to pay $4.45 million to the family of Dennis Marion. He was an auto mechanic who died two years ago of prolonged exposure to brake products that contained asbestos.
Between 1964 and 1978, Mr. Marion worked as a mechanic at Marzec Motors, a used car dealership that once operated in a facility owned by Nationwide Brake in Maple Heights. Before his death, Mr. Marion said he often installed asbestos-lined brakes provided by Nationwide and was exposed to air within Nationwide´s facility that was contaminated with asbestos particles.
The verdict followed a four-hour, uncontested presentation on Feb. 18 by the Marion family´s lawyers at Kelley & Ferraro, a Cleveland-based firm that specializes in asbestos-related personal injury cases.
Nationwide Brake´s attorney, Brian Dunbar, described the verdict as a "huge misunderstanding." He said he never was able to contest the allegations because he recently moved his office and did not receive notice from the court of the Feb. 18 hearing.
Mr. Dunbar recently filed a motion with the Court of Appeals to overturn Judge Hannah´s verdict.
However, Michael V. Kelley, managing partner at Kelley & Ferraro, told Tire Business his firm is "moving forward in our efforts to collect the judgment."
Nationwide Brake was the only defendant that did not settle in the lawsuit, which was filed in August 1998 and named as defendants Nationwide and five of the world´s largest auto manufacturers.
The lawsuit claimed that Mr. Marion contracted mesothelioma, a cancer that infects the lining of the lungs, from asbestos-lined brake products produced by the auto companies.
General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG, Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. have agreed to a series of settlements totaling $1.3 million with Mr. Marion´s widow, Lynne Marion, and their daughter, Denise.
Though Mrs. Marion said she was pleased with the settlements, she was "more satisfied" with the judge´s verdict against Nationwide Brake.
"It felt good just to hear someone say, `Look, what happened here was wrong,´ " she said.
As part of Mr. Marion´s job, he and fellow employees often had to sand the exterior of asbestos-lined brake products provided by Nationwide Brake. The work kicked up millions of asbestos particles into the air, she said.
Mr. Marion did not show any effects of the exposure until August 1997, when he complained of breathing problems and doctors found that he had contracted mesothelioma, Mrs. Marion said.
Mr. Marion died 18 months later at age 51. &Copy;