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Court Upholds $9M Verdict In Asbestos Case

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A South Florida appeals court Wednesday upheld a more than $9 million verdict against Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in the death of a man who suffered from asbestos-caused mesothelioma.

A panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal rejected a series of arguments by attorneys for Northrop Grumman, including that an expert witness had failed to establish the amounts of asbestos Dennis Britt inhaled while at company facilities in Bethpage, N.Y., and Hawthorne, Calif.

Britt was an employee-benefits adviser and visited commercial and industrial sites, including the Northrop Grumman facilities, to enroll workers. Britt, who died during the case, testified that he was exposed to asbestos fibers while at the Northrop Grumman facilities. After a weeklong trial, a jury awarded his wife, Rosa-Maria Britt, $8.5 million in compensatory damages and his estate $519,265 in medical and funeral expenses, Wednesday's ruling said.

In rejecting Northrop Grumman's argument about a failure to establish the amounts of asbestos Britt inhaled, the appeals court cited other testimony such as a lack of routine air sampling at the company facilities.

“Having failed to monitor and quantify airborne asbestos levels at Northrop's plants during the applicable years, Northrop is hardly in a position to demand precise quantification. … On such a record, the pathology and medical records reflecting the existence and level of asbestos fibers in Mr. Britt's lungs, coupled with his personal testimony regarding his visits to the premises and what he observed while there — followed by his undisputed death from mesothelioma —  constitutes competent, substantial evidence supporting the verdict,” said the ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Vance Salter and joined by judges Richard Suarez and Robert Luck.