On July 27, 2012, a jury in the matter of Michael Galliher v. American Optical Corp., et al., an asbestos personal injury lawsuit pending in the Superior Court of the State of Delaware, awarded over $2.8 million to the surviving wife and the estate of Michael Galliher. The jury found the sole defendant at trial, R.T. Vanderbilt (“RTV”), negligent for failing to adequately warn of the hazards of its industrial talc product that was used at Michael Galliher’s workplace. The $2.8 million verdict is the largest jury award in an asbestos personal injury lawsuit in Delaware in the past decade and well over the $1.7 million in total awarded to the plaintiffs in November 2010 in the consolidated trials of the Elizabeth Henderson and Bruce Henderson matters.
A summary of the Michael Galliher matter is provided below.
In August of 2010, Michael Galliher was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. He died just a few months later on February 3, 2011 at the age of 62. He was survived by a wife of nearly 35 years, a son, and a step-son. From 1966 until the early 2000s, Mr. Galliher worked at a Borg Warner facility in Mansfield, Ohio that manufactured bathroom fixtures, such as toilets and sinks. The worked at the Borg Warner facility for the majority of his working life and, aside from a few brake changes and some minor home renovation work, all of his known asbestos exposure occurred there.
Mr. Galliher worked at a number of different locations in the Borg Warner facility. Most important for the purposes of the case was his time in the cast area, where molds were used to form the bathroom fixtures. Plaintiffs alleged that talc was applied to the molds in the cast area so that mold could be easily removed from the finished bathroom fixture once it had set. Plaintiffs also alleged that talc was used in an area of the facility where the glaze was applied to the finished products, called the slip area. Although Mr. Galliher never personally worked in the slip house, the plaintiff alleged that talc dust from the slip area blew into areas of the plant where Mr. Galliher was working.
Plaintiffs alleged that industrial talc from RTV’s Gouverneur, New York mine was used at the Borg Warner facility and that Mr. Galliher was exposed to asbestos or asbestiform bodies in that talc, which caused his mesothelioma. Plaintiffs alleged that the talc that RTV mined in New York and supplied to the Borg Warner facility was a fibrous talc, not a “platy” talc as is used in baby powder, and that the fibrous talc was contaminated with other minerals, such as tremolite and anthophyllite.
A number of experts—both medical and mineralogical—testified on behalf of Plaintiffs. A fiber digestion analysis was performed on Mr. Galliher’s lung tissue after his death and several of Plaintiffs’ experts, including Dr. Jerrold Abraham, Dr. James Millette, and Sean Fitzgerald (a geologist), reviewed the results of