MILWAUKEE – Dean Omar Branham Shirley, LLP trial lawyers secured a $26.5 million wrongful death verdict this week on behalf of a Wisconsin grandfather who died from mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos while working in the Bottle House at Pabst’s Milwaukee Brewery in the 1970s.
A Milwaukee County jury presided over by Circuit Judge Christopher Foley heard testimony outlining the employment history of Gerald “Jerry” Lorbiecki, a steamfitter who worked at a number of job sites over the better part of four decades prior to his death. Of these, the family’s evidence showed two workplaces – Pabst Brewing Co. and Wisconsin Electric – were negligent in protecting employees from asbestos exposure and violated Wisconsin’s Safe Place Act. Wisconsin Electric settled with Mr. Lorbiecki’s estate prior to trial.
“Throughout the trial, Pabst continued to deny accountability for the workplace safety of Jerry and the other workers at their plants,” said the Lorbiecki’s attorney, Jonathan Holder of Dean Omar Branham Shirley. “They claimed it was not their responsibility, and they didn’t know about the hazards.”
In closing arguments, lawyers for Pabst argued that company safety officials were unaware of the dangers associated with asbestos exposure in the 1970s because they were reading brewing magazines, not peer-reviewed published literature.
“As a result, there were OSHA violations in 1986 for asbestos falling off exposed pipes in the brewery workers’ lunchroom. It was that lack of accountability that the jury reacted to,” Mr. Holder said.
The jury deliberated for nearly five hours on October 6 before returning a 10-2 verdict and an award of $6.545 million in actual damages and $20 million in punitive damages. The two dissenting jurors, Mr. Holder was told, held out for a larger award that would have “sent a message” to corporations to settle outstanding asbestos-exposure cases and complete any remaining abatement at their plants.
“Due to the shutdown of the courts during the pandemic, this case took longer than expected to reach its conclusion. Although this trial was a long time coming, this jury’s time and careful attention to Mr. Lorbiecki’s case, and their findings on liability and punitive damages, will provide some solace to his family,” said Mr. Holder. “We appreciate the work of the jury, along with Judges Foley and William Sosnay, on this case.”
The case is Carol Lorbiecki, Individually, and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Gerald Lorbiecki vs. Air & Liquid Systems Corporation, et al., 2018CV004971, Branch 14 of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Representing the Lorbieckis were Jonathan Holder, Rachel Gross, and Jessica Dean of Dean Omar Branham Shirley, LLP in Dallas.
Dean Omar Branham Shirley, LLP, is a nationally recognized trial firm that handles cases across the country for individuals who have suffered catastrophic injuries or have died as a result of the irresponsible conduct of others. For more information, visit www.dobslegal.com.