TACOMA, Wash. — NAPA Auto Parts and its parent company, Genuine Parts Corp., have been ordered to pay $81.5 million in damages to the family of a man who died of an asbestos-related disease.
A jury before the Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma voted unanimously to find that NAPA and Genuine Parts were negligent and strictly liable in the death of Jerry "Doy" Coogan of Kettle Falls, Wash., according to a press release issued April 20 by the law firm of Dean Omar & Branham L.L.P.
GPC intends to challenge the verdict.
Mr. Coogan, a heavy-equipment operator, died of complications from mesothelioma in 2015 at age 67, Dean Omar & Branham said.
He operated and repaired backhoes, cranes and other construction equipment that led him to buy asbestos-containing products from NAPA stores, the attorneys alleged.
Mr. Coogan also restored hot rods and classic cars, which likewise led him to purchase asbestos-containing parts from NAPA stores near his home, they said.
At no time did Mr. Coogan know he was being exposed to asbestos, according to Jessica Dean, one of the Dean Omar & Branham attorneys who represented the Coogan family.
"Many sellers of friction parts such as brakes, clutches and gaskets have known for nearly a century that their products contain asbestos and can kill," Ms. Dean said, "but they refuse to acknowledge their responsibility."
Some auto parts sellers continued to sell asbestos-containing parts as late as 2001, she said.
Asked to comment, a Genuine Parts spokesman referred to the company's 10-Q filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission April 25.
According to that document, the Coogan decision came down April 17. Genuine Parts said it believes the verdict is not supported by the facts or the law.
"The company intends to challenge the verdict through post-trial motions and, if necessary, on appeal to a higher court," GPC wrote in the 10-Q.
According to the 10-Q, Genuine Parts had total assets of $9.17 billion as of March 31, 2017. Net income for the quarter ended March 31 was $160 million on sales of $3.9 billion.