SCRANTON – An asbestos-related mesothelioma case litigated in the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas, which sought more than $2 million in damages from a number of manufacturers, ended with a unanimous verdict in favor of the defense on Wednesday.

After a trial which lasted nearly three weeks, a Scranton jury returned a complete defense verdict in the case initially brought by Robert Horst, Jr. and Diane Horst (later individually and as executrix of the estate of Robert, now a decedent), against Union Carbide Corporation, Trane US, Inc., American Standard, Inc., Burnham, LLC, Carrier Corporation, Georgia Pacific, LLC, Hajoca Corporation, Lennox Industries, Inc., The Marley-Wylain Company (doing business as “Weil-McLain”), Peerless Industries, Inc., Rheem Manufacturing Company, York International Corporation and Borg-Warner.

Defense counselor David C. Marshall of Hawkins Parnell Thackston & Young in Atlanta said of the verdict, “The challenge at trial was the huge sympathy factor, including a large economic loss. Fortunately, the jury was attentive and focused on causation, understanding that certain gasket removal does not pose a health hazard.”

Plaintiff counsel Kathryn Pryor of Baron & Budd, in Dallas could not be reached for comment.

Decedent Robert Horst worked as a residential HVAC repairman and plumbing worker from 1970-1978 and he, along with his wife Diane, claimed working with the defendants’ products, such as HVAC equipment, boilers, joint compounds, and other asbestos products in the course of his profession, led to asbestos exposure and the development of his malignant mesothelioma in November 2014.

The instant suit was filed in March 2015.

Just more than a year later, Robert would pass away from complications related to mesothelioma at the age of 62 in July 2016, leaving Diane the lone plaintiff.

The trial began on Oct. 30 in the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas with the original 11 defendants, and ended at verdict with just five defendants – three furnace manufacturers (Rheem, Lennox and Carrier), one boiler manufacturer (Hajoca), and a supply house (Burnham).

According to the defendants, the plaintiffs failed to prove Robert’s mesothelioma was caused by asbestos exposure from their products, and claimed that work with asbestos-containing gaskets posed no health risk. With two hours of deliberation, the Lackawanna County court jury of six women and four men returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the five remaining defendants.

Another member of defense counsel, Jason Irvin of Hawkins Parnell Thackston & Young in Dallas, stated, “The jury understood that the plaintiff had the burden of proof, and ultimately concluded she did not meet that burden.”

On the jury verdict slip, the 10 jurors affirmed their view that the products manufactured and sold were not “in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous for their intended use”, and that the defendants were not negligent or in any way responsible for Robert’s fatal mesothelioma.

The plaintiffs are represented by Pryor and Chad Cotton of Baron & Budd, in Dallas.

The defendants are represented by Marshall and Eric T. Hawkins of Hawkins Parnell Thackston & Young in Atlanta, Greg Stokes of Swartz Campbell in Philadelphia, Irvin of Hawkins Parnell Thackston & Young in Dallas, Texas, Christina Gonzales of Rawle & Henderson in Philadelphia, Knight Anderson and Joseph Manno of Tucker Ellis in Cleveland, Ohio, plus Douglas Eisler, Jim Tate and John Fitzpatrick of Wilbraham Lawler & Buba, in Philadelphia.

Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas case 17-CV-1903

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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