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Worker's Family Wins $5.2 Million Asbestos Verdict

Feb 24, 2004 | AP

A jury awarded $5.2 million in damages Tuesday to the family of a refinery worker who died of lung disease that he blamed on exposure to asbestos-laden insulation made by a subsidiary of Pfizer Inc.

The jury in El Paso County deliberated about two hours before returning the verdict against Quigley Co.

Lawyers for the family of Luis Ytuarte Sr. said during a weeklong trial that he became ill after many years of handling a powdered insulation that Quigley made to protect furnaces, pipes and boilers.

Ytuarte was an insulator, brick mason and laborer in a Phelps Dodge Corp. copper refinery in El Paso from 1948 through the mid-1980s.

He was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure, in February 2002 and died nine months later at age 77.

A lawyer for the Ytuarte family, said Quigley officials knew about the dangers of the asbestos in the insulation for years but continued to sell the product until 1974.

"It boils down to the jury feels you have a company that chose profit over safety and worker health," said the Ytuarte family lawyer.

The jury awarded the family $2.7 million in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages.

The award will be reduced by the amount that the family has received in settlements from other companies that made asbestos-containing products used at the plant, Moreno said. He estimated those settlements totaled about $500,000.

A separate lawsuit by the family against Phelps Dodge is scheduled to go to trial in October in the same courtroom of Judge Javier Alvarez.

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