After a three-week trial in a Little Rock federal courtroom, a jury awarded more than $18.5 million Tuesday to the family of a man who worked at a brake shop in the city in the 1970s, exposing him to asbestos in brake-shoe linings.
The verdict, published Wednesday in electronic court records, was against Honeywell International Inc., which years ago bought Allied Signal, a company that had acquired Bendix in 1984. Bendix was one of the principal manufacturers of brake-shoe linings in the country. When Honeywell bought Allied Signal, it also bought all of the company’s liabilities.
Benjamin Braly, a Dallas attorney who tried the case on behalf of the estate of Ronald Burlie Thomas, a former Arkansan who developed mesothelioma in March 2017 and died Dec. 31 of that year at age 72, said he found the verdict “validating.” But Braly said he was disappointed that jurors didn’t also hold Ford Motor Co. liable for Thomas’ suffering and death.
Thomas worked at Stuart’s Brake Shop in Little Rock and North Little Rock from 1971 until 1983, performing 10 to 12 brake jobs every day during some periods, according to court documents. Braly noted that the shop, which is still open in North Little Rock, was owned then by Stuart Flanders, but has different owners now. He said Thomas moved to Texas in 1984 and was still living in the state, in Midland, when he was diagnosed.
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