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Judge Rules against Carnival Cruise in Asbestos Case

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Usually, in cases involving asbestos, the location where the material was found was a building. Construction workers are usually the victim as their job can easily stir up asbestos before it gets breathed in. However, this isn’t the only place asbestos can be found. It can be found in just about any structure built before the 1970s. As it turns out this includes cruise ships. This past December, a judge ruled against Carnival for exposing an employee to this dangerous material.

What Is Asbestos?

Fortunately, most of us never have to worry asbestos. As we mentioned at the beginning, the substance has been banned for quite some time now (officially, in 1989, minus some exceptions, but it was already going out of use a decade earlier).

Asbestos can refer to one of any six fibrous minerals that occur naturally. Their fibers are microscopic, yet extremely durable. Add to that that they’re both fire-resistant and immune to many chemicals, and you have a mineral that is perfect for a number of different construction needs. For years, shingles, roofing, floor tiles, cement compounds, automotive parts, textile products and much more was made with this product.

Currently, asbestos is still allowed for some uses, but it’s highly regulated by the government. That’s because it was eventually discovered how deadly asbestos could be. The downside of its traits is that being extremely small makes it easy to inhale. Once someone inhales it, these tiny fibers can get stuck in their lungs or other organs. Due to their other incredible trait, durability, once inside the body, asbestos is almost impossible to get rid of.

Decades after inhaling it, many have died from asbestos. Unfortunately, the early stages of the kind of cancer it causes can be difficult to diagnose. This makes it that much easier for someone to die from it. Over a hundred-thousand people have died from it over the years.

Giovanna Settimi Caraffa

Giovanna Settimi Caraffa was an electrician who worked for Carnival over the course of 15 years. It was after his last year with the company, 2001, that he developed lung cancer. By 2015, the native of Italy had died.

Throughout his typical workday, Caraffa would spend hours in engine rooms and machine spaces on one of the company’s cruise ships (he worked on four different vessels, all out of service now: the Carnivale, Mardi Gras, Tropicale and Festivale). It was in these rooms that he was allegedly exposed to asbestos. Being steam ships, the attorneys representing Caraffa’s estate claimed that they were lined with asbestos for insulation.

The Outcome

The plaintiff’s side brought forward testimony from Italian doctors who insisted Caraffa’s cancer was due to asbestos exposure. They also brought forward Giorgio Rispoli, a onetime chief engineer for Carnival. He testified that asbestos was present throughout the areas that were worked by the deceased.

After a trial that lasted nine days—and nine years before it ever saw a courtroom—jurors needed just 3½ hours to come to a decision. Caraffa’s family was awarded $10.3 million. It was $10 million for their pain and suffering, plus an additional $192,000 in damages for the widow. $128,000 was given to cover lost earnings and, for funeral expenses, $19,504. However, jurors did assign Caraffa comparative negligence, which dropped the original amount by 65% (the estate filed a motion to set this finding aside).

This is the first time a cruise line has been brought to court because of asbestos. Given its success and how rampant the use of asbestos was, expect to see similar headlines in the future or at least a lot of settlements handed out.