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$25 million asbestos verdict returned against Exxon

A Newport News jury returned a $25 million verdict this morning against Exxon Corp. for a ship repair supervisor who contracted mesothelioma after working on the company’s ships from 1966-77.

Rubert Minton, 72, of Isle of Wight County, was working for Newport News Shipbuilding at the time.

Minton’s attorney, Bobby Hatten, said Minton worked in engine and boiler rooms of tankers with asbestos insulation. Hatten said the case focused on Exxon’s knowledge of the exposure of workers to asbestos and the control it had over the work done on the 17 ships that Minton worked on over the 11 years. The case was tried under maritime law.

The jury awarded $12.5 million in compensatory and $12.5 million in punitive damages, even though Hatten only asked for $5 million in punitive damages in his complaint and in closing arguments. “It was very obvious from the verdict that they were upset with Exxon. I had not anticipated how upset they would be.”

He said the punitive award will have to be reduced to the amount requested.

The verdict was revenge of sorts for Hatten. His adversary, Bill Armstrong of Oakland, Calif., handed Hatten his only loss in a jury trial in a case against Exxon in November 2009. Hatten has had a million-dollar verdict in a mesothelioma case in each of the last six years.

Armstrong told The Daily Press in Newport News he will appeal the verdict. Here’s the newspaper’s account of the trial.

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