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DaimlerChrysler ordered to pay brake repairman $20 million in asbestos verdict

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NEW YORK (AP) -- DaimlerChrysler Corp. (NYSE: DCX) must pay $20 million to a retired police officer and brake repairman whose right lung was removed because of cancer caused by asbestos, a jury ruled.

A jury in Manhattan's state Supreme Court ruled that Alfred D'Ulisse, 73, of North Massapequa, N.Y., and his wife were owed a total of $25 million, D'Ulisse's lawyer Jerry Kristal said Monday.

DaimlerChrysler was found to be 10 percent liable for D'Ulisse's cancer, but will be responsible for a total of 80 percent of the damages because two other companies found to be liable no longer exist, Kristal said.

DaimlerChrysler, which makes cars under the Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler brands, issued a statement saying the case was built on "junk science" and accused Justice Louis B. York of "improper rulings." The company said it was confident last week's verdict would be reversed on appeal.

DaimlerChrysler was responsible for the amount owed by the now-defunct companies because the jury found that the automaker acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others, Kristal said.

Two other auto manufacturers, each found to be 10 percent liable by the jury, settled with D'Ulisse before trial for undisclosed amounts, he said.

The repairman contracted the cancer, mesothelioma, after working at Morak Brakes in Brooklyn, Kristal said. Surgeons removed his right lung in 2004, the lawyer said.

Asbestos is a fire retardant material that was formerly used widely as insulation in buildings and motor vehicles.

The jury also found that DaimlerChrysler was not responsible for the mesothelioma of another worker, Rodolfo Colella. The 50-year-old auto mechanic from Queens worked with brakes made by various automakers between 1972 and 1989.

A DaimlerChrysler spokeswoman, Elaine Lutz, said her company's lawyers presented evidence that Colella's cancer was caused by radiation therapy after he contracted Hodgkin's lymphoma in the 1970s.

The judge had ordered the cases tried together because they had the same lawyers and the same main defendant.

DaimlerChrysler assistant general counsel Steven B. Hantler issued a statement saying his company presented evidence at trial showing its products "were not a substantial factor in causing their diseases."

"Inexplicably, the jury accepted the junk science theories presented by the plaintiffs' lawyers in the D'Ulisse case," the statement said. "DaimlerChrysler plans to vigorously challenge this verdict and is confident of a reversal."

The statement said DaimlerChrysler on appeal "will clearly establish that our right to a fair trial and due process of law were systematically undermined by the trial judge's bias and many improper rulings."

D'Ulisse worked in the brake shop from 1960 to 1964 and then worked there part time during some of his 36 years as a city police officer, Kristal said. He stripped worn linings from brakes and installed new ones.

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