Delaware Court Affirms Clutch & Gasket Manufacturers Liability for Two Asbestos Cancers & Questions Sufficiency of Compensation

December 16, 2011 – Elizabeth Henderson and her son, Bruce Henderson, worked in their family’s automotive shops in Louisiana between the 1950s and 1980s. During that period, both had significant exposure to asbestos-containing gaskets and clutches manufactured by Dana Companies LLC and Zoom Performance Products. As result, both died of mesothelioma in 2008 and 2010, respectively.


WILMINGTON, Delaware, December 16, 2011 – Elizabeth Henderson and her son, Bruce Henderson, worked in their family’s automotive shops in Louisiana between the 1950s and 1980s. During that period, both had significant exposure to asbestos-containing gaskets and clutches manufactured by Defendants Dana Companies LLC (“Dana”) and Zoom Performance Products (“Zoom”). Elizabeth Henderson developed pleural mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer of the lung, years later, and died on November 26, 2008.

Compounding the family’s tragedy, Bruce Henderson was also diagnosed with mesothelioma shortly thereafter and died on January 15, 2010.

Mesothelioma lawyers from Levy Konigsberg LLP (“LK”), initiated two lawsuits on behalf of the Henderson family in 2009, which were consolidated for trial. Following a two-week trial in November of 2010, the jury found that both Elizabeth and Bruce Henderson were exposed to asbestos-containing products of both Dana and Zoom. The jurors further found that Dana and Zoom were negligent in failing to provide adequate warnings on their unreasonably dangerous products and that Dana and Zoom’s misconduct was a substantial factor in causing the decedents’ mesothelioma cancers.

As to damages, in Bruce Henderson’s case, the jury awarded $1.16 million for pain and suffering. The jury also awarded $125,000 to each of Bruce Henderson’s siblings for the loss of their mother. Notably, the jury awarded only $80,000 for Elizabeth Henderson’s grave pain and suffering. It also awarded Bruce Henderson no damages at all for loss of his mother’s society, support, love, and affection.

Both sides appealed to the Delaware Supreme Court, the state’s highest tribunal. On appeal, attorneys for Dana and Zoom once again principally challenged the sufficiency of the evidence showing that their products caused Elizabeth and Bruce Henderson’s deaths from mesothelioma. In contrast, Plaintiffs challenged the sufficiency of the jury awards concerning both Elizabeth Henderson’s pain and suffering and Bruce Henderson’s loss of his mother. The appellate team for Plaintiffs in this action included LK partner Jerome Block and associate Amber Long.

In an opinion dated December 14, 2011, Delaware Supreme Court agreed with Plaintiffs on both appellate issues. The Court quickly rejected Dana’s and Zoom’s attempts to challenge their liability. In affirming the trial court’s decision on that issue, the Supreme Court rightly recognized that Plaintiffs had introduced a wealth of evidence establishing that the Defendants’ asbestos-containing automotive products substantially contributed to the Hendersons’ mesothelioma cancers.

The Delaware Supreme Court then considered the Plaintiffs’ cross-appeal concerning the damages awarded. Here too, the Delaware Supreme Court agreed with Plaintiffs, who argued that the law required the jurors to consider the evidence relating to each item of damages separately, rather than evaluating the sums awarded in the aggregate. In other words, it is an error to rationalize an extraordinarily low jury award on one item of damages by taking into account that the Plaintiffs might be receiving compensation through other items of damages. The Delaware Supreme Court similarly recognized that the adequacy of a jury award must be evaluated only in light of the evidence presented at trial. Consequently, it would be improper for jurors to speculate about who the recipient of each portion of the award would be, and to allow such speculation to affect their review and evaluation of the evidence. Based on these principles of law, the Delaware Court remanded the case back to the trial court, for consideration of whether additur – essentially an increase of the amounts awarded – was warranted.

This opinion issued by the Delaware Supreme Court represents one of many victories for appellate attorneys at LK, who routinely bring and defend appeals in federal and state courts nationwide. It also reflects the firm’s steadfast commitment to go the distance on our clients’ behalf, and pursue their claims vigorously until a just outcome has been achieved.

For over a quarter of a century, mesothelioma lawyers at Levy Konigsberg LLP have been among the pioneers of asbestos litigation in America. The firm’s attorneys have been recognized as nationwide leaders in representing the rights of mesothelioma victims and their families. Their clients have received some of the largest mesothelioma compensation verdicts in the country.

For more information about this or other mesothelioma lawsuits, please contact Levy Konigsberg LLP at (800) 315-3806 or 1-800-MESO-LAW (1-800-637-6529), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.