Jury awards $2.59m to widow

Daniel Tepfer, Connecticut Post - BRIDGEPORT - Nearly $2.6 million has been awarded nearly to the wife of a former Navy firefighter from Florida who died from asbestos-related cancer in 2008 by a Superior Court jury.

After a two-month trial before Judge David Tobin, the six-person jury deliberated for less than a day and a half before ordering Allis-Chalmers Corp. to pay $2,595,000 to Gail Fortier of Port Orange, Fla. Last Thursday the award was announced.

Fortier's husband, David, died in Florida three months shy of his 60th birthday last June 20. He suffered from mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos inhalation.

The widow's lawsuit was the first asbestos-related case to go to verdict in Connecticut in 20 years, said the plaintiff's lawyer, Christopher Meisenkothen, who works for the New Haven-based law firm Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney and Meisenkothen.

"We are pleased with the result and Mrs. Fortier is certainly pleased," Meisenkothen said.

The lawyer representing Allis-Chalmers, Jeffrey Ment, said however: "We are taking an appeal and we believe the judge made decisions ripe for appellate review."

David Fortier, who was a former Connecticut resident, served in the U.S. Navy from 1969 to 1972, a majority of that time as a fireman on the USS Forrestal aircraft carrier, according to Meisenkothen. His service began two years after a devastating fire broke out aboard the ship, killing 134 sailors and injuring 161 others.

While on the ship, Fortier worked on pumps and other equipment manufactured by Allis-Chalmers, which, he said, were heavily insulated with asbestos.

Fortier was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October 2006, the lawyer said, and in December 2006 a lawsuit was filed.

Allis-Chalmers was once one of the world's largest manufacturer's of farm and other heavy equipment. Now the Texas headquartered company concentrates on oil field services.

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