DALLAS – A Dallas County jury has awarded a substantial verdict to the survivors of a longtime Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. employee who died of complications from mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that forms in the lining of the lungs and is primarily caused by asbestos exposure.
Billy Dickson, a mechanical engineer at the Texas aerospace company for 38 years, died in 2013 at age 74. Jurors in the 95th District Court returned their verdict March 27 following a week-long trial and five hours of deliberations. They found there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Bell Helicopter was “grossly negligent” in exposing Mr. Dickson to asbestos.
Trial testimony showed that Mr. Dickson, who at one time tested components used to build helicopters for the Vietnam War, was often exposed to asbestos in amounts 200 times greater than is considered permissible by government safety standards.
“There was not a company-based respiratory protection policy in place during the time of Billy’s exposure. Asbestos air concentrations were so high that Mr. Dickson often found himself surrounded in clouds of asbestos dust,” said attorney Darren McDowell of Dallas-based Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett P.C., who along with Samuel Iola, represented the Dickson family. “It was an ungodly amount of asbestos exposure.”
Evidence at trial revealed Bell Helicopter knew it was exposing employees to unreasonably dangerous asbestos levels eight years before Mr. Dickson began working at the company’s plant in Hurst, Texas.
“They knew in 1955 that asbestos exposure could be fatal, but did not do anything until the mid-1970s, and then only semi-complied,” Mr. McDowell said. “Mr. Dickson was passionate about many things, including his grandchildren, the Texas Rangers and his job. He was the kind of worker who would do anything for his company. For Bell to have a total lack of regard for asbestos danger was absolutely heartbreaking to him.”
The case is Shirley Dickson, et al. v. Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc., No. DC-12-05995-D.
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