A divided Florida state appeals court ruled in favor of Bechtel Corp. in an asbestos liability case, reversing a lower court decision that Bechtel’s failure to contact former employees as potential witnesses could be inferred in a negative light by a jury.
Richard Batchelor, who worked at Juno Beach, Florida-based Florida Power and Light Co.’s Turkey Point power plant from 1974 to 1980, and his wife, Regina, had filed suit against San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp. and subsidiary Bechtel Construction Company, among others, in 2015 after he was diagnosed with terminal mesothelioma, according to the Dec. 27 ruling by the Florida Court of Appeal in Miami in Bechtel Corp. et al. v. Richard Batchelor, et al.
A jury entered a verdict of $15.4 million for Mr. Batchelor and $6 million for his wife, and found construction and engineering firm Bechtel 60% liable. In its 2-1 ruling, the appeals court said the Miami trial court judge’s instruction to the jury “constituted reversible error.”
The trial court judge had told the jury that if it found Bechtel’s failure to produce others employed at the plant between 1974 and 1980 to be unreasonable they were “permitted to infer that the evidence would have been unfavorable to Bechtel.”
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