Asbestos Exposure Case Results in $8.8 Million Jury Verdict

Billy Dickson was an engineer for Bell Helicopter Textron’s plant in Hurst, Texas. He held this position for the better part of 38 years. From 1962 to the late 1970s, he was exposed to asbestos through hands-on work.

He was also indirectly exposed as nearby workers sanded asbestos-containing adhesives.

Dickson, who wore no respiratory protection, was frequently surrounded by clouds of asbestos dust.

In 2012, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma and unfortunately died of the disease the following year at age 74. He was survived by his wife, three adult children and several grandchildren.

Dickson’s wife, on her own behalf and on behalf of her husband’s estate, sued Bell Helicopter alleging that the company was negligent and grossly negligent for choosing not to warn workers of the dangers of asbestos exposure, failed to provide workers with respiratory protection and chose not to have a policy in place to address workplace asbestos exposure.

The Dickson family presented undisputed evidence that Bell Helicopter had actual subjective awareness beginning in 1955 that asbestos exposure could result in death. The company’s designated corporate representative reportedly admitted at his deposition and in open court at the jury trial that Bell Helicopter started using and incorporating asbestos-containing materials in its helicopters as early as the 1950s.

Although Bell Helicopter knew of the dangers, the Dickson family asserted that the company chose not to implement any measures to stem the deadly exposures.

Even after OSHA’s asbestos standards were promulgated in 1972, the Dickson estate claimed, Bell Helicopter still chose not to implement any policies specifically targeted to eliminate hazardous asbestos exposures at its plant.  The plant in which Dickson worked had no respiratory policy mandated for asbestos use or exposure until after 1981.

Bell Helicopter countered that claim, arguing that because Dickson was an engineer, he should have known that the asbestos he was working with was potentially hazardous and should have taken his own precautions.

The jury’s verdict was approximately $8.8 million, which included $1 million in compensatory damages and $7.8 million in punitive damages.

Of the compensatory damage verdict, Dickson’s wife received $260,000 for past and future loss of companionship and society; $100,000 for past and future loss of care, maintenance and support; and $40,000 for past mental anguish.

The three children of Dickson each received $130,000 for past and future loss of companionship and society; $50,000 for past and future loss of care, maintenance and support; and $20,000 for past mental anguish.

The jury allocated the punitive damages at 55% to Dickson’s wife and 15% to each of his children.

The trial judge denied the defendant’s motion for judgment N.O.V. (notwithstanding the verdict).  After reducing the verdict under Texas’s cap on punitive damages, the court entered a judgment of approximately $1.65 million. Instead of receiving the jury’s verdict of more than $8.8 million, Dickson’s family will receive $1,650,000 under Texas law for Dickson’s wrongful and horrible death caused by asbestos exposure.

The attorneys successfully representing the Dickson family were Darren McDowell and Samuel Iola.

At trial, experts were presented in cell biology and occupational/preventative medicine.

Dickson v. Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc., No. DC-12-05995-D (Tex. Dist. Ct. Dallas County).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling asbestos-related mesothelioma lawsuits for individuals, families and the loved ones who have been injured, harmed or died as a result of asbestos exposure for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Melrose Park, Calumet City, Darien, Gurnee, Crystal Lake, Highland Park, Homewood, Itasca, Joliet, Kenilworth, Lake Forest, Mount Prospect, River Forest, Tinley Park, Chicago (Wicker Park, Jefferson Park, South Loop, South Shore, East Side, Lakeview, Lincoln Square), University Park and Vernon Hills, Ill.

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