Bell Helicopter Ordered to Pay Significant Punitive Damages in Asbestos Death

A Dallas County jury found there was “clearly and convincing evidence” that Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. was “grossly negligent” in exposing longtime engineer Billy Dickson to asbestos. (File photo)

Twelve years after retiring from the only professional job he’d ever had, a routine medical exam revealed nodules on Billy Dickson’s lungs. The next exam confirmed the worst: mesothelioma — the deadly cancer caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. For persons older than 25, malignant mesothelioma was listed as the underlying or contributing cause on more than 45,000 death certificates in the U.S. from 1999 to 2015, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mr. Dickson, a resident of Hurst, Texas, lost his battle Dec. 13, 2013. He was 74. Earlier this week, a Dallas County jury found there was “clearly and convincing evidence” that Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. (TXT), Mr. Dickson’s employer for 38 years, was “grossly negligent” in exposing the longtime mechanical engineer to asbestos. There was not a company-based respiratory protection policy in place during the time of Billy’s exposure,” said the Dickson’s attorney Darren McDowell of Dallas-based Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett P.C. “Asbestos air concentrations were so high that Mr. Dickson often found himself surrounded in clouds of asbestos dust. “It was an ungodly amount of asbestos exposure. The family’s lawsuit, which was filed the year before his death, was bittersweet for Mr. Dickson. He was a mentor and inspiration to numerous engineers over the years,” his family wrote in his obituary. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Mr. Dickson and a colleague invented a landing gear load transducer for the aerospace company in 1987. For Bell to have a total lack of regard for asbestos danger was absolutely heartbreaking to him,” Mr. McDowell said. The jury awarded Mr. Dickson’s widow and three children $1 million for their loss and $7.8 million as punishment to Bell.


For more information or to set up an interview, contact Mark Annick at 214-559-4630 or

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