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DuPont Ordered to Pay Survivors

Mar 6, 2002 | AP

A Kanawha County jury has ordered DuPont to pay $6.4 million to the family of a man who died after being exposed as a child to asbestos fibers in his father's work clothes.

The verdict was one of five that jurors delivered last Friday following a three-week trial before two judges appointed by the state Supreme Court to handle all asbestos-related claims.

In the first claim, Leonard Dale Cox, chief executive officer of the Bank of Gassaway in Braxton County, died in 2000 at the age of 53 from mesothelioma, a rare and fatal tumor in the lining of the lung.

Cox had never worked with asbestos but his father, Cecil Cox, had installed asbestos insulation at DuPont's Belle plant from the 1940s until he retired in the 1970s, according to court records.

Leonard Cox's survivors sued DuPont, alleging the company was responsible for his death.

The jury's award includes $1.7 million for Cox's lost earnings, $2 million for Cox's widow, $300,000 to each of his two children for their loss, another $2 million for his pain and suffering and $118,000 for medical bills.

In another claim, jurors awarded $600,000 to the widow of Roy Lupardis, a DuPont laborer and mechanic who had worked at the Belle plant for 35 years.

Jurors rejected a similar claim filed by the family of Robert Pritt, another longtime worker at the plant who died from mesothelioma last year.

Bernard Belville, a contract worker, was awarded $24,800. Belville had attributed asbestos-related thickening of the lining of his lungs to his 10 weeks of work at the Belle plant.

Jurors rejected a similar claim filed by the family of Page Humphreys, another contract employee who had worked at DuPont's Parkersburg plant in 1960.

The case was heard by retired Kanawha County Circuit Judge Andrew MacQueen and Ohio County Circuit Judge Martin Gaughan, and originally involved more than 60 plaintiffs and several other companies. All but the five claims against DuPont were settled before the trial's opening statements.

MacQueen was appointed by the state Supreme Court last year to hear all asbestos-related claims. In its ruling on July 6, 2001, the court acknowledged MacQueen's knowledge of the complex lawsuits and his successful handling of tens of thousands of past asbestos claims, but said it would call on other judges to help him.

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