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Dangerous Cocktail: Comparative Negligence, plus a dash of dubious Cause-in-fact, plus a tablespoon of Joint and Several Liabilty

has a story that might be a poster child example of the ill effects of this legal monstrosity.

DaimlerChrysler Corp. has been condemned to pay $20 million to a retired police officer who worked for a brake shop for four years, forty years ago, and whose right lung was removed because of cancer caused by asbestos.

A Manhattan jury ruled that Alfred D'Ulisse, 73, of North Massapequa, N.Y., and his wife were owed a total of $25 million.

DaimlerChrysler was found to be 10 percent liable for D'Ulisse's cancer, but will be responsible for a total of 80 percent of the damages because two other companies found to be liable no longer exist.

DaimlerChrysler issued a statement saying the case was built on "junk science" and accused Justice Louis B. York of "improper rulings." The company said it was confident last week's verdict would be reversed on appeal.

Two other auto manufacturers, each found to be 10 percent liable by the jury, settled with D'Ulisse before trial for undisclosed amounts, he said.

The jury also found that DaimlerChrysler was not responsible for the mesothelioma of another worker, Rodolfo Colella. The 50-year-old auto mechanic from Queens worked with brakes made by various automakers between 1972 and 1989.

A DaimlerChrysler spokeswoman, Elaine Lutz, said her company's lawyers presented evidence that Colella's cancer was caused by radiation therapy after he contracted Hodgkin's lymphoma in the 1970s.

The judge had ordered the cases tried together because they had the same lawyers and the same main defendant.

"Inexplicably, the jury accepted the junk science theories presented by the plaintiffs' lawyers in the D'Ulisse case," the statement said.

D'Ulisse worked in a brake shop from 1960 to 1964, then worked there part time during some of his 36 years as a city police officer.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.