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A California jury has $200 million in punitive damages to a woman who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. The large award will likely be reduced but does say something about how the jury felt about the liability involved in the case.

Plaintiff’s attorney William Levin, of the San Fransico based Levin Simes Kiaser & Gornick, said he believes that the large landmark award was the result of a the particularly compelling circumstances of the case.

Plaintiff’s attorneys argued that Rhoda Evans developed mesothelioma by being exposed to asbestos by washing her husband’s clothes. Her husband, Bobby Evans, was employed by the Los Angeles water and power department for 24 years; where for a period of time his duties included cutting defendant Certain Teed Corp.’s asbestos cement water pipes.

Some believe the fact that Rhoda Evans was caring for her grandchildren after the death of her daughter four years ago may have had a significant impact on the jury when considering how much too award.

Certain Teed was found to culpable for 70 percent of the damages while the city water and power department was assigned the remaining 30 percent of the liability.

It is rare for punitive damages to be awarded in California asbestos cases, and $200 million award would be considered significant even for cases extending far past asbestos.

It remains to be seen just how much of the award will stand. The trials courts request for a briefing suggests that the judge has questions about the validity of such a large verdict, and is a good indication that a reduction may be just around the corner.

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