April 21, 2017—A jury this week was unanimous in its finding that NAPA Auto Parts and Genuine Parts Corp. (GPC) were liable in the asbestos-related death of a heavy equipment operator and awarded his survivors $81.5 million.
In its verdict, the jury found that GPC and NAPA were negligent and strictly liable for their defective asbestos-containing products, used by Jerry "Doy" Coogan of Kettle Falls, Wash. Coogan died in 2015 at the age of 67 of complications from mesothelioma, a deadly cancer primarily caused by asbestos exposure.
"Many sellers of friction parts such as brakes, clutches and gaskets have known for nearly a century that their products contain asbestos and can kill. But they refuse to acknowledge their responsibility," said Dallas attorney Jessica Dean of Dean Omar & Branham, LLP, who along with attorney Ben Adams, represented the Coogan family. "Even worse, some continued to sell these products until 2001, which means that other families will surely suffer the same fate."
Coogan, who learned to be an excavator from his grandfather, operated and repaired backhoes, cranes and other construction equipment for many years, exposing him to asbestos products made or sold by the defendants. Mr. Coogan also loved restoring hot rod and classic cars. His hobby led him to often purchase asbestos-containing parts from NAPA stores near his home in northeast Washington.
The $81.5 million verdict is among the largest ever awarded in Washington. The trial, heard in Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma, lasted more than 12 weeks. The jury returned its verdict after five hours of deliberations.