The widow of one Alan Olson sued her deceased husband’s employer, the Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH), for not giving its employees adequate protection from, or information about, asbestos. PATH provides commuter trains between New York and New Jersey.
Alan Olson was a smoker for 31 years and died of lung cancer. However, his widow is claiming that his cancer was caused by asbestos in his work environment. Asbestos does indeed cause a type of lung cancer called mesothelioma, but this was evidently not the type of cancer Olson died from.
Asbestos can also interact with tobacco smoke to cause the more typical lung cancer – either small cell lung carcinoma or non-small cell lung carcinoma, and Olsen appears to have had one of these two types.
PATH’s defense attorneys argued that his lung cancer was caused by his decades of smoking and that PATH does indeed provide protection for its workers from asbestos, and information about its danger.
Juror Reversed His Vote
The case went to trial and its jury delivered a verdict on March 16. They deliberated for ten hours and were divided, with six members convinced that Olsen’s cancer was caused by his smoking and two wanting to blame PATH. New Jersey law requires agreement in five sixths of a civil jury. After ten hours, one juror changed his vote to make it seven against the plaintiff. He felt that if he did not do that, “we would’ve never gotten out of there”.
A week after the trial finished, this juror sent an email to the plaintiff’s law firm admitting what he had done and apologizing, as he did think asbestos played a role as well as the 31 years of smoking.
Now the plaintiff’s attorneys are asking the Hudson County Superior Court for a new trial on the grounds that the jury did not keep its oath to base its decision on the facts of the case. Plaintiff lawyer Gregory Shaffer stated in his brief:
- “On its face, this juror is stating that he had decided for the plaintiff. He is stating that asbestos/fumes had its role in a strict comparative case. Yet, he is stating that he did not fulfill his sworn duty to vote on the case based upon his determination of the facts. Rather, he wanted to get out of there.”
Apparently, New Jersey has not before had a scenario where a juror changed his or her vote to hurry the proceedings along, then felt remorse and sent an email. Nor does case law look kindly on a losing attorney looking into the jury’s deliberations.
PATH attorneys are due to file a response on April 20 and the case will unfold further.
Mesothelioma is on the rise and you can read more about it at Mesothelioma Attorneys – Detection and Diagnosis. Asbestos lodged for years in the body can cause different types of mesothelioma – in the abdominal cavity and the heart, where there are membranes enclosing those structures similar to the membrane around the lungs.
Please see our page on Asbestos Exposure for more about products containing asbestos.
If you have been harmed by another person’s negligence and would like to know more about your legal situation, please contact our Mobile, Alabama office for a free case evaluation.