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Asbestos Victims Pledge to Donate Most of $75 Million Award

March 22, 1988

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) _ Three former Du Pont Co. employees suffering from exposure to asbestos pledged Monday to give 90 percent of a $75 million award in punitive damages to six institutions.

William Kapp Jr. of Elkton, Md., one of the victims and spokesman for the group, said the $67.5 million - if the damage award is upheld on appeal - will be donated ″to try to help our fellow asbestos victims, as well as to help assure that this kind of corporate abuse of public trust will never happen again.″

″This is just our way of putting the punitive damages award to its highest purposes,″ Kapp said.

In November, a Superior Court jury awarded Kapp, 55; James Webb, 74, of Newport; and Joseph Kaster, 71, of the Newport area and their wives what has been called the second-largest personal injury award in U.S. history, against Raymark Industries Inc. of Trumbull, Conn.

The jury supported claims that Raymark, formerly Raybestos Manhattan Inc., conspired with the former Johns Manville Corp., now Manville Corp., to suppress information relating to the health hazards of asbestos and failing to place warnings on their products.

Raymark manufactured asbestos that the men worked around for more than 25 years at Du Pont’s Newport plant. Previous state court rulings had barred liability of employers in such cases.

In addition to the punitive damage award, the men were awarded more than $1 million in actual damages for personal injury. They said they had contracted lung disorders linked to breathing asbestos fibers. Six co-defendants settled the case.

There are 350 similar cases pending against Raymark in Delaware.

The inhalation of asbestos, once commonly used in building insulation and other products, has been linked to cancer and other diseases.

The National Campaign Against Toxic Hazards, a toxic victims advocacy group, was earmarked to receive $13 million of the $67.5 million.

The Boston-based group’s organizing director Peter Obstler said the money would be used ″to continue to provide staff and technical assistance to victims″ of toxic chemicals.

But Kapp stressed that the money may never be awarded.

Both sides are awaiting a decision from Judge Clarence W. Taylor on whether to uphold the award. If it is upheld, Raymark will appeal, according to LeGrande L. Young, Raymark general counsel.

Kapp, who employed by Du Pont for 33 years before he became too ill to work, said he was hoping the move to donate the money to charity would persuade Taylor to uphold the $75 million award.

Young said he did not think the judge could be swayed. ″Either it’s an appropriate judgment or it’s not,″ he said.

The other institutions targeted for part of the award at $13 million each are the Mount Sinai School of Environmental Medicine in New York; the University of Delaware School of Business to establish a chair to advance the study of business ethics; the Medical Center of Delaware’s Carpenter Clinic for Cancer Research; and the White Lung Association, a Baltimore-based organization of asbestos victims.

An additional $2.5 million was pledged to the Emily P. Bissell Hospital for the critically ill in Newport.

The largest jury award is believed to be $127.8 million to an Orange County, Calif., teen-ager who sued Ford Motor Co. over burns he received when the gasoline tank of his 1972 Pinto exploded.