$322M Verdict in Mississippi Asbestos Suit Overturned

By HOLBROOK MOHR | April 30, 2012

An asbestos lawsuit that once resulted in a $322 million verdict for a Mississippi man has turned in favor of the company he sued.

Thomas Brown’s lawyers had called the verdict last year the largest asbestos award for a single plaintiff in U.S. history. But it wasn’t long before the Mississippi Supreme Court removed the judge in the case for allegedly not disclosing his parents had been involved in similar asbestos litigation.

A specially-appointed judge, William Coleman, threw out the verdict and ordered another trial. The lawsuit was moved to Jones County, where a jury on Wednesday ruled in favor of Union Carbide Corp.

Brown, of Brookhaven, claimed he inhaled asbestos dust while mixing drilling mud manufactured by Union Carbide. He said he was required to take oxygen 24-hours a day.

“Eight experts, including an independent medical examiner, testified at trial that Mr. Brown, like many plaintiffs who have asserted similar asbestos allegations, did not have an asbestos-related disease caused by UCC,” company spokeswoman Sarah Opperman said Friday in a statement.

“UCC is gratified that the jury carefully considered the evidence and reached this unanimous decision,” she said.

Brown’s Dallas lawyer, Allen Hossley, also didn’t immediately respond to a message requesting comment.

After the first trial and record verdict, Union Carbide asked Smith County Circuit Judge Eddie Bowen to toss out the award. They also asked Bowen to step down from the case. When Bowen didn’t respond, Union Carbide went to the Supreme Court and asked the justices to remove him.

Union Carbide claimed Bowen was a practicing attorney when his father and mother sued Union Carbide for $1 million. Union Carbide argued that Bowen’s bias and prejudice against the company was clear from his rulings, comments in front of the jury, and his coaching of Brown’s attorneys in questioning witnesses.

Union Carbide is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company, according to its website, with over 2,400 employees. Its corporate center is in Houston and it has other locations in Texas, New Jersey, Louisiana and West Virginia.

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