Wisconsin Appellate Court Sides with Mesothelioma Victim’s Family, Increases Verdict to $13.4 Million

Dean Omar Branham Shirley: Court of Appeals denies Pabst Brewing Co. challenge

MILWAUKEE – The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has upheld a jury’s verdict on behalf of the family of a mesothelioma victim there and increased the award to $13.4 million.

The appeals court affirmed a trial court jury’s verdict in a wrongful death suit filed by the family of Gerald “Jerry” Lorbiecki. Mr. Lorbiecki, a steamfitter who contracted mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos while working in a bottle house at Pabst’s Milwaukee brewery in the 1970s.

The court rejected an appeal by Pabst Brewing Co., the producers of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, which denied accountability for the workplace safety of Mr. Lorbiecki and other workers who were exposed to asbestos at its brewery.

“We are happy to see the court side with the Lorbiecki family,” says attorney Jonathan Holder, the family’s representative. “During the trial, the jury understood by our evidence that there was a serious lack of concern about the brewery workers’ wellbeing and health. We are glad the appellate court agreed.”

In 2021, the trial court jury concluded that Pabst Brewing Co. was negligent in protecting employees from asbestos exposure in violation of Wisconsin’s Safe Place Act and awarded $26.5 million. While evidence showed the exposure came from Lorbiecki’s work on pipes in the bottle house, the family’s attorneys unearthed a 1986 OSHA violation against Pabst citing crumbling asbestos falling off the exposed pipes in the workers’ lunchroom, indicating Jerry Lorbiecki’s exposure to asbestos never ceased while working at Pabst, not even during his daily lunch breaks.

But the trial court, citing statutory limits in Wisconsin, lowered the verdict to $6.9 million and Pabst appealed. In this latest ruling, the appellate court concluded that “Pabst’s arguments fail” and instructed the circuit court to increase the amount of punitive damages and enter a judgment against Pabst for $13,419,295.79.

“We are incredibly happy for the Lorbiecki family,” said Trey Branham, “Moreover, we are so proud of Jonathan Holder and Rachel Gross for their trial success and relentless effort on behalf of the clients.”

The underling case is Carol Lorbiecki, Individually, and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Gerald Lorbiecki vs. Air & Liquid Systems Corporation, et al., 2018CV004971, Branch 14 of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court.

Dean Omar Branham Shirley, LLP, is a nationally recognized trial firm that handles cases across the country for individuals who have suffered catastrophic injuries or have died as a result of the irresponsible conduct of others. For more information, visit www.dobslegal.com.

Media Contact:
BeLynn Hollers


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