South Carolina Jury Hits John Crane With $1.75M Asbestos Verdict, Watch Full Trial via CVN

Posted by David Siegel on Mar 26, 2024 10:39:39 AM

Peterson closings

CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Holly Peterson delivering her closing argument

Spartanburg, SC - A South Carolina state court jury awarded roughly $1.75 million on Monday to the widow of a maintenance worker who claimed exposure to asbestos in gaskets produced by industrial manufacturing company John Crane caused his fatal cancer, and the full trial was recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.

The Spartanburg County jury returned their verdict a few hours after hearing closing arguments in the trial that began on March 18. They found exposure to asbestos in John Crane’s products was a substantial factor in the death of plaintiff Melba Bolton’s husband, but they also declined to award the punitive damages her attorney requested.

Attorney Holly Peterson, with Dallas-based law firm Simon Greenstone Panatier PC, argued during her closing statement that years of exposure to asbestos while working at a nearby Celanese Corp. plant in the 1970’s caused Curtis Bolton’s mesothelioma - a terminal form of cancer affecting the lining of the lungs often associated with inhalation of asbestos fibers.


Echoing a theme she stressed repeatedly during her opening statement, Peterson acknowledged to jurors that over Bolton’s lifetime he had exposure to asbestos from a variety of sources, but that tests of his lung tissue and witness testimony confirmed his illness was primarily caused by asbestos in John Crane’s gaskets and packing.

The lawsuit originally included numerous additional defendants, but only John Crane remained active in the case when it proceeded to trial.

Peterson accused John Crane of failing to provide workers with adequate warnings about the dangers associated with asbestos exposure, despite knowing for decades that the mineral posed a significant health risk. She specifically cited warnings issued by regulators in Illinois, where John Crane is based, as far back as the 1940's.

“These are things that John Crane had to know about,” Peterson told the jury, according to CVN’s webcast of the trial. “John Crane just didn’t care.”

Representing John Crane, attorney Chris Massenburg of MG+M Law Firm argued to jurors that Bolton’s admitted exposure to asbestos from other sources caused his illness, and that asbestos inside the John Crane gaskets Bolton worked on remained sealed.

Massenburg closings

CVN screenshot of defense attorney Chris Massenburg delivering his closing argument

He cited expert witness testimony and scientific studies claiming work with gaskets does not pose a health risk, instead maintaining that Bolton’s cutting through asbestos-containing insulation to gain access to the gaskets at the Celanese plant provided the bulk of his exposure.

“If John Crane had never had any gaskets or packing there it would not have made any difference to Mr. Bolton’s exposure,” Massenburg said during his closing.   

Neither Peterson nor Massenburg responded to requests from CVN for comment.

The trial took place before former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina Jean Toal, who now overseas South Carolina’s consolidated asbestos docket after retiring from the state’s highest court.

The full trial, including all witness testimony, is available for unlimited on-demand viewing with a monthly or annual subscription to CVN’s online trial video library, which includes numerous asbestos and other mass tort cases among hundreds of other civil jury trials from state courts throughout the country.

The case is captioned Melba Bolton, et al. v. John Crane Inc., case number 2021-CP-42-02480 in South Carolina’s Fifth Judicial Circuit Court in Spartanburg County.

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Topics: Asbestos, South Carolina