A Manhattan jury awarded $60 million to the family of a construction worker who died from asbestos exposure, in a verdict that critics say shows the need for tort reform.
Pietro Macaluso did demolition work on single-family homes in Brooklyn in the 1970s and ’80s. The work required ripping out boilers laden with cancer-causing asbestos. The units were manufactured by A.O. Smith Corp., Burnham Commercial and Peerless.
Macaluso sued the three companies a year before he died in July 2016 at age 56.
The award will be split between Macaluso’s 11-year-old twins and his girlfriend, Mary Murphy-Clagett.
“Pietro was great man and nobody should have to go through what he went through,” Murphy-Clagett told The Post. “Nothing can bring him back and I’d do anything to never have had this happen, but I’m glad justice was served.”
The family’s attorney, Daniel Blouin, argued during the nine-week trial that the boiler companies knew about health risks associated with asbestos, but did nothing to warn the public.
“Many of the defendants had safety precautions in their own factories to protect against the dangers of asbestos but they were not passing those warnings on to people like Pietro Macaluso,” Blouin said.
“As a result, he never had an opportunity to protect himself.”
Macaluso was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in July 2015. Blouin believes the jury was swayed by a video of him as he lay on his deathbed.
“It was very, very sad. He was just so skinny and frail,” Blouin said.
He also thinks the jurors “responded” to his request for damages for emotional pain and suffering after watching Macaluso “saying goodbye to his kids and knowing that they would grow up without a father.”
On Friday, the jury found the boiler companies negligent and reckless in causing Macaluso’s death.
But the payout — eight times the national average — also shows why the city’s special asbestos-litigation division known as “NYCAL” is one of the most plaintiff-friendly in the country, critics said.
“Another runaway verdict in the NYCAL, higher than the national average, illustrates the need for court officials and lawmakers to re-evaluate how New York deals with asbestos lawsuits,” said Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.
Stebbins encouraged the state Legislature to pass pending bills that would require the disclosure of trust claims, ban punitive damages and make other changes in trial rules.
The verdict in the Macaluso case is the largest asbestos award in the city since a $75 million verdict in January 2017.
Lawyers for A.O. Smith and Burnham did not return calls for comment. Philip O’Rourke, an attorney for Peerless, said his client plans to appeal the verdict.