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Welding rod manufacturers prevail over asbestos claims

Jessica Shumaker//May 17, 2017

Welding rod manufacturers prevail over asbestos claims

Jessica Shumaker//May 17, 2017

Jackson County jurors found two welding rod makers not liable for damages Tuesday in the case of a Kansas City man who alleged his work as a welder caused exposure to asbestos, and later, his death.

The man, Donald Laningham, died at age 82 in 2014, two years after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis.

In 2012, he and his wife, Ruth, sued several companies, including Hobart Brothers Co., of Troy, Ohio, and Lincoln Electric Co., in Cleveland, Ohio, alleging his exposure to welding rods as a welder led to his cancer.

The defense verdict followed two weeks of trial.

At closing arguments Tuesday, the plaintiffs asked the jury to consider $3.7 million in damages, an amount reflective of Laningham’s medical bills, his wife’s loss of consortium and the loss experienced by his three children.

Kurt L. Rasmussen of Rasmussen Dickey Moore in Kansas City represented the two companies. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

James Thompson of Edelman & Thompson in Kansas City represented the plaintiffs. He said his client has not yet decided whether to appeal.

Thompson said the case was complex. He noted his argument in the case, that the welding rods caused or were a contributing factor to Laningham’s mesothelioma, was based on the medical establishment’s finding that the disease is based on the accumulated exposure to asbestos.

He drew a comparison to smoking and lung cancer.

“You couldn’t go back and say which cigarette caused it, it’s all the cigarettes,” he said.

At closing arguments Tuesday, he argued the welding rods were defective and the companies failed to warn of their potential harm.

“Nobody told the welders, not one company told the welders,” he said. “In a country that values the freedom of choice, it would be nice to know what that choice was.”

Rasmussen drew a distinction between mesothelioma linked to insulation containing asbestos, which was banned in the 1980s, and the case involving Laningham.

“This is a terrible tragedy,” he said. “It doesn’t lessen the tragedy putting blame onto companies that didn’t do it.”

He argued that welding rods have never been a banned product, and denied they posed an asbestos exposure risk.

The suit initially included defendants Kansas City Power & Light, General Electric Co., AIRCO Inc., BOC Group Inc., Kirk Welding Supply Inc., Massman Construction Co., URS Energy & Construction Inc., EBASCO Services Inc. and EECI Inc.

Thompson declined to provide further details on their release from the case prior to trial, but hinted at settlements.

“Some of those matters have been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties,” he said.

Defense Verdict

Venue: Jackson County Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 1216-cv14564/May 16, 2017

Judge: Justine E. Del Muro

Plaintiff’s Experts: Arthur Frank, Philadelphia (asbestos-related disease); Carlos Bedrossian, Chicago (pathology); Steven Compton, Duluth, Georgia (materials science); Barry Castleman, Baltimore (asbestos)

Defendant’s Experts: Mary Finn, Des Moines (industrial hygiene), Louis W. Burgher, Bennington, Nebraska (pulmonary physiology), Tim D. Oury, Pittsburgh (pathology), John DuPont, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (materials science); Kim Anderson, Milwaukee (toxicology), Mary Beth Beasley, New York City (pathology)

Last Pretrial Demand: None

Last Pretrial Offer: None

Caption: Donald Laningham and Ruth Laningham v. Hobart Brothers Co. and Lincoln Electric Co.

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: James Thompson and Melissa Steed, Edelman & Thompson, Kansas City; David C. Thompson, Grand Forks, North Dakota

Defendant’s Attorneys: Kurt L. Rasmussen, Rasmussen Dickey Moore, Kansas City

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