Ford Motor Company is the latest major U.S. company to be hit with a large jury verdict in an asbestos exposure case. Makers of products that contain asbestos can be held liable when consumers develop asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma. Ford has faced numerous asbestos exposure lawsuits from people who claim that handling their auto parts caused them to develop deadly diseases.
The Ford lawsuit involved a 76-year-old man in St. Louis County. He worked as an auto mechanic at a gas station in the 1960s, where he regularly handled Ford brakes that contained asbestos. Later in life, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer infecting the lining of the lungs and chest cavity that is caused by asbestos exposure. At the conclusion of the two-week trial, the jury awarded the man $10 million in damages, and another $10 million in punitive damages. The punitive damage amount includes $5 million that will go into Missouri’s Tort Victims’ Compensation Fund, per state law. The company has stated that they will appeal the ruling.
Ford has a long history of using asbestos in its components, beginning at its founding in 1903. For much of the 20th century, asbestos was used as an additive for commercial products, given its durability, versatility, and heat- and flame-resistant properties.
Ford used asbestos to make numerous parts, including clutches, brakes and brake linings, gaskets, engines, transmissions, and firewalls for decades. The company claims to have stopped mixing asbestos into its parts in 1983 after the link between asbestos and deadly disease had been firmly established and the substance became heavily regulated. For many who would be diagnosed with asbestos-related disease later in life, however, the damage had already been done.
Repeated Asbestos Exposure Leads to Illness, Lawsuits
Although it may seem like a long gap between the exposure and the Missouri man’s diagnosis, this is consistent with how asbestos-related disease works. Asbestos fibers that are inhaled or ingested remain in the chest cavity for decades, slowly damaging the surrounding tissue until tumors begin to form. Those who were exposed to asbestos before Ford discontinued its use may still receive a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Mechanics who handled asbestos-laced parts on a daily basis were most at risk of deadly exposure, but anyone who came in contact with the components might be at risk. This includes factory workers who produced the parts, employees at auto part suppliers who sold them, customers who used them for their own repairs, and junkyard employees who disposed of them. Some workers’ families may have faced secondary exposure as well, as asbestos dust could travel home on workers’ clothes and in their hair.
The Missouri lawsuit is the latest multi-million-dollar verdict against Ford in lawsuits related to asbestos exposure. In 2021, an $8.2 million verdict was awarded to a New Orleans mechanic who had worked with Ford vehicles in the 1960s and 1970s. A California mechanic was awarded $6.8 million in 2012. In 1996, widows of two Baltimore-area mechanics were collectively awarded $14.3 million after their husbands died from mesothelioma. Most of the lawsuits involve Ford brake linings, which contained 40 to 60 percent asbestos and could release large amounts of asbestos dust when they were sanded down.
Philadelphia Mesothelioma Attorneys at Shein Law Can Help You if You Have Been Diagnosed with Mesothelioma
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, call one of our Philadelphia mesothelioma attorneys at Shein Law. We have the knowledge and experience to handle all types of asbestos exposure cases. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Call 877-743-4652 or complete our online form to schedule an initial consultation.