In a verdict that had families of victims shouting “shame” in an Italian courtroom, nine former Pirelli tire manufacturer managers were acquitted of manslaughter and “causing grave harm” in a case that involved more than two dozen deaths from asbestos exposure.
According to an Associated Press article penned in Rome earlier this week, the Italian News Agency ANSA said relatives of the 28 plaintiffs yelled hateful remarks at the judge and jury when the asbestos case acquittal was announced.
The victims, who are now deceased, worked in Pirelli’s Milan-based factories in the 1970s and 1980s. Asbestos was used abundantly in rubber plants both overseas and in the United States at that time.
As a result, many workers developed asbestosis, pleural plaques, and aggressive mesothelioma cancer, which often kills its victims within a year of diagnosis.
Just about 18 months ago, a separate trial brought about the conviction of 11 other Pirelli managers who were being tried for manslaughter in the death of some 20 workers who developed cancerous tumors or lung diseases after being exposed to asbestos while working for the tire manufacturer.
Prosecutors argued that the men weren’t properly protected from toxins while on the job. Unfortunately, those convictions were overturned just last month by an appeals court.
The managers in the 2015 case had been given prison sentences, with the longest being seven years, eight months. Families of the victims rejoiced at that verdict, telling a BBC reporter that they showed “when we are united, we can win.”
“This time,” they added, “the bosses have been convicted.” But, sadly, their happiness has been short-lived now that the “bosses” have been relieved of their penalties and will neither pay fines nor serve prison terms.
Pirelli, headquartered in Italy, also has plants in the U.S., South and Central America, Asia, and several other European countries. In all, there are 20 Pirelli plants located in 16 countries, though several didn’t operate during the decades when asbestos use was commonplace.
A number of other tire manufacturers in the U.S. have seen a sizeable number of mesothelioma diagnoses among former employees.
Manufacturers like Goodyear, Goodrich, Bridgestone, Cooper, and others have been named in numerous asbestos-related cases over the years, with employees alleging that the companies continued the use of asbestos products in their plants even though they were aware that employees were becoming ill from exposure.
In April of last year, the family of a man who worked for Kelly-Springfield Tire Company, a subsidiary of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, received a settlement of $18.6 million from a jury in the Chicago area.
The plaintiff in this case had worked for the company for about 11 years and died of mesothelioma at age 60.
He had worked on several tire-building machines but also worked with asbestos-containing brake assemblies. Attorneys for the victim’s family were able to prove that the company did not comply with OSHA rules instituted in 1972 that called for employee monitoring in all workplaces where asbestos was present.