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Supreme Court makes big ruling in asbestos case

Cases involving product liability can be confusing. Boiled down into simple language, these cases involve a person claiming that a product was defective in some way, and as a result of this defect they were caused some type of injury. These cases can result in substantial awards to an injured party, including people in New York, if they can prove their case.

A recent case involving a defective product made it all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The plaintiff in the case claimed that a drilling additive made by the defendant contained asbestos and ultimately led to the untimely death of her husband.

The man who died worked on oil rigs for approximately 30 years. It was common for asbestos to be in additives used in this line of work. But the man was also a substantial smoker. He died a few months after being diagnosed in 2002 with lung cancer.

The case was heard by a jury, which decided the product manufacturer was liable and awarded compensation in the amount of $3.85 million. But that wasn't the end of the story, which is typical for many lawsuits. Instead, the judge who oversaw the original product liability trial threw out the verdict against the company and said that the plaintiffs didn't prove their case.

Ultimately, the case wound up in the highest court in the country. The Supreme Court ruled that the judge made a mistake in throwing out the verdict and said he used the wrong legal test in making his ruling.

The Supreme Court case was decided by a 4-3 vote in support of the plaintiff. This decision means the case will return to the original court for further consideration.

As this case demonstrates, there may exist many hurdles when facing off with companies that put harmful products on the market. Persistence and a keen understanding of legal details can help in the pursuit of justice.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Union Carbide faces deadline to file for rehearing," Jack Elliott Jr., Dec. 30, 2013

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