Bloomberg News

Union Carbide Asbestos Verdict Erased by Mississippi Judge

January 04, 2012

(Updates with call to judge in fifth paragraph.)

Jan. 3 (Bloomberg) -- A $322 million jury verdict in an asbestos case against Dow Chemical Co.’s Union Carbide unit and Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. was overturned by a Mississippi judge.

The companies asked the state Supreme Court to overturn the verdict, saying Smith County Circuit Judge Eddie Bowen had a conflict of interest because his parents had asbestos legal claims, including one against Union Carbide.

The state’s high court removed Bowen from the case last year. His replacement, Special Judge William F. Coleman, said on Dec. 22 that the companies’ request to remove Bowen and vacate the verdict were “well taken and should be granted.”

The May 4, 2011 verdict was the largest ever made to a single asbestos case plaintiff, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. State punitive-damages restrictions would have reduced the verdict by at least $260 million. Coleman’s order doesn’t include information on a new trial. The jury award was the ninth-largest in the U.S. overall in 2011, according to Bloomberg data.

Dow Chemical spokesman Scot Wheeler wasn’t immediately available to comment on the judge’s order. Bowen’s court administrator, Judy Herrington, said he was out of the office and wouldn’t comment on the case.

Plaintiff Thomas Brown claimed he developed asbestosis after being exposed to the toxic fibers while mixing drilling mud on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. He claimed Union Carbide and Chevron Phillips knew asbestos is toxic and didn’t warn him.

The case is Brown v. Phillips Co., 2006-196, Circuit Court, Smith County, Mississippi (Raleigh).

--with assistance from Margaret Cronin Fisk in Southfield, Michigan and Andrew Harris in Chicago. Editors: Andrew Dunn, Mary Romano

To contact the reporter on this story: Laurence Viele Davidson in Atlanta at lviele@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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