Appeals court decides not to consider rehearing on $8M asbestos settlement overturn

WEST PALM BEACH – On Nov. 9, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal refused to reconsider its Sept. 14 decision to overturn a 2013 $8 million award to Richard DeLisle, who sued multiple companies, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Crane Co., for his mesothelioma diagnosis.

«(Delisle claimed) he developed mesothelioma from smoking Kent cigarettes with asbestos-containing filters in the 1950s,” a Nov. 17 article from CVN said. “DeLisle, who worked as a pipe fitter in the 1960s, also partially attributed his asbestos exposure to gaskets manufactured by Crane Co.»

After the 2013 decision to award DeLisle one of the largest suits against a tobacco company and cigarette manufacturer with regards to an asbestos claim from smoking, R.J. Reynolds and Crane both submitted appeals, claiming that expert evidence provided in the 2013 trial was not valid.

«There was no data presented at the hearing showing that chrysotile asbestos in low levels is associated with mesothelioma,” the Nov. 9 opinion said. “Indeed, the other experts testifying for DeLisle all rejected such an association. The trial court’s gatekeeping role is not a passive role. The court should affirmatively prevent imprecise, untested scientific opinion from being admitted.”

The overturning that occurred in September offered background information on why the evidence provided in the 2013 jury decision was found to be invalid.

«We hold that the court abused its discretion in admitting expert testimony and thus reverse for a new trial for R.J. Reynolds and for entry of a directed verdict for Crane,” the September court decision said. “We also address, for the purposes of new trial, the jury instruction issue and the damage award.”

The Fourth District Court of Appeal explained that a new trial was ordered for R.J. Reynolds because the opinions of two of DeLisle’s experts should not have been admitted by the trial court as they did not offer sufficient causation. Also, the testimony of a pulmonologist for the plaintiff should have also been excluded for similar reasons.

In regards to Crane, the court explained that although DeLisle’s only expert offered research, he offered it from several different types of asbestos studies. The case was based on one specific type of asbestos, which was chrysotile asbestos.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal also explained that it agreed with R.J. Reynolds’ complaint that the trial court was at fault for not appropriately instructing the jury. The opinion also argued that the initial $8 million decision came without thorough consideration of whether DeLisle actually used Kent cigarettes.

Crane prevailed with a directed verdict in its favor by the appeals court, but R.J. Reynolds could face a retrial. “Crane and RJR were assigned 16 and 22 percent responsibility for Delisle’s illness, respectively, at the time of the trial,» the CVN article said. «Remaining responsibility was allocated amongst Hollingsworth & Vos, Owens Corning Fiberglass and Brightwater Paper Co., who were no longer involved in the case when it went to a jury.”

The Nov. 9 court decision stressed that when R.J. Reynolds returns to trial, the court should focus on both the reward amount requested (and whether the amount is fair and reasonable) and whether Delisle actually smoked Kent cigarettes during the time frame he initially stated.

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