Jury reverses trend in silicosis case

A jury in Port Gibson once labeled a “judicial hellhole” for its large jury awards – concluded companies owed a Mississippi man nothing for claims he suffered from silicosis.

Lawyers for 73-year-old Eugene Westrope of Hazlehurst asked jurors for $4.5 million in damages, saying he had contracted the lung disease after using products made by three companies between 1964-95.

But the jury concluded in a 9-3 vote that Clemco Industries Corp., Precision Packaging and Lone Star Industries Inc. owed nothing to Westrope, who originally sued 18 companies. He settled claims with 15 of those companies prior to trial.

After the jury voted in favor of the defense late Thursday, Fred Krutz of Jackson, whose law firm represented Clemco, said the court reporter remarked to him, “Congratulations. You made history. That’s the first defense verdict ever in these cases in Claiborne County.”