A St. Louis jury has awarded $4.1 million in damages to the widow of an electrician from Westfield, Wis., who died of complications from mesothelioma, a deadly lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
Longtime electrician Keith Urbach died in 2012, about six months after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Jurors in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court returned their verdict Jan. 25 following a one-week trial and nine hours of deliberations. They found that The Okonite Company of Ramsey, N.J., was 5% liable for Urbach's death. Trial testimony showed that he worked with a fixture wire manufactured by Okonite that contained asbestos.
The case is Jean Urbach v. The Okonite Company, No. 1122-CC-10636.
Urbach worked as an electrician from 1963-2002 for several employers in Wisconsin and Illinois. His death so soon after diagnosis limited his attorneys' ability to produce evidence of Urbach's exposure to asbestos, although they were able to find co-workers who could testify that he had several possible sources of exposure, including through Okonite's fixture wire, said Jay Stuemke, attorney for the family and a shareholder in Dallas-based Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett P.C.
Jurors determined that other companies were liable for the other 95% of his exposure. Notably, jurors assigned no responsibility to Urbach.
"Keith Urbach spent 40 years working hard to support his family, and it's beyond tragic that his labors were repaid with an early and painful death," Stuemke says. "He and Jean had looked forward to many more years enjoying their children and grandchildren, but that time was taken away from them by the unforgivable negligence of companies like Okonite."
In addition to Stuemke, Urbach was represented by Simon Greenstone associate Hutton Sentell of Dallas.