Jury Verdict for Silica Supplier’s Failure to Warn Caused Fatal Lung Disease

From 1959 to 1964, Rivers Sampson worked as a sandblaster and used silica as an abrasive agent.  In 2014, at the age of 77,  Sampson died of sepsis and silicosis, which is a progressive disease caused by inhaling silica dust. Having silica dust attached to the lungs causes inflammation and scarring.

Sampson’s two surviving adult children brought a lawsuit against more than 20 companies that mined and sold silica for use in sandblasting. It was alleged that these defendants chose not to warn of the health risks of silica exposure. Some of these defendants settled before the trial for confidential amounts or were otherwise dismissed from the case. However, the lawsuit did proceed to a jury verdict against Mississippi Valley Silica Co.

The Sampson family sought punitive damages claiming that the defendants, in choosing not to warn of the known health hazard, constituted actual malice or gross negligence. The Sampson family asserted that the defendant failed to add product warnings regarding the health hazards of silica exposure until 1972, although the industry was well aware of the dangers since at least the 1930s.

At trial, Sampson’s medical expert testified that based on Sampson’s exposure history and changes on his x-ray, he had silicosis, and the disease was a contributing cause of his death.

Mississippi Valley countered that the Sampson family failed to prove that their father had silicosis and argued that he had died from sepsis.

The jury entered a verdict of $800,000 in compensatory damages, which included $400,000 to each of Sampson’s children and $100,000 in punitive damages. However, the jury allocated fault at 50% to Mississippi Valley Silica and the remainder to other companies. After applying this allocation formula, this defendant was responsible for just $500,000.

The attorneys representing the Sampson family were Patrick C. Malouf, John T. Givens and Dennis C. Sweet III.

At this jury trial, the Sampson family presented experts in human factors and pulmonology while the defendant presented experts in pulmonology and diagnostic radiology.

Sampson v. Pangborn Corp., No. 2014-90 (Miss. Cir. Ct. Jefferson County, Feb. 28, 2017).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling diesel fume injury cases, toxic tort cases, work injury cases, construction site injury cases, mesothelioma cases and product defect cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Elgin, Dixmoor, Dolton, Crete, Countryside, Burr Ridge, Calumet City, Lyons, Markham, Matteson, Melrose Park, River Grove, Park Forest, Palos Park, Palos Heights, South Barrington, South Chicago Heights, Chicago (Rosehill, Grand Boulevard, Bridgeport, Beverly, Avondale, Austin, Little Italy, Lincoln Square, UIC, Wrigleyville, North Park, Pulaski Park, Ravenswood Manor), Round Lake and Lockport, Ill.

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