2013 Appeal Verdict in the Great Asbestos Trial
Updated June 6, 2013
Today (June 3, 2013) in Turin the Appeal Court not only upheld a landmark asbestos verdict of 2012 but upped the prison sentence handed out to Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny from 16 to 18 years! Defendants Stephan Schmidheiny and Baron Louis de Cartier de Marchienne were appealing guilty verdicts they received for their parts in the asbestos deaths of thousands of Italians. The original verdict sentenced them both to sixteen years in prison and ordered that financial penalties of €5 billion be paid to 6,392 injured parties. Through their legal teams, the defendants indicated their intention to appeal. Needless to say, not one euro in compensation has been received by the injured despite a court order requiring that millions of euros in interim damages be paid.1
Attempts by the defendants to quash the verdict suffered a serious setback on March 4, 2013 when the President of the Turin Court not only validated the first instance guilty ruling but also rejected the defendants' ploy to halt the ongoing proceedings. The appeal had nearly reached completion when on May 21, 2013 the death of one of the defendants, 91-year old Louis de Cartier de Marchienne, was reported. With his demise, the criminal case against him and Etex, the company of which he was a director, was vacated.
Italian asbestos victims and campaigners were joined in the Turin court this morning by colleagues from France, Belgium and Switzerland, countries where Eternit asbestos operations have also caused a massive loss of life. Just after 9 a.m. expert witness Pietro Clerici was asked by the Court to authenticate the death certificate of one Louis de Cartier de Marchienne. When this had been done, lawyers for the deceased and for Etex, the company of which he had been a director, asked for the cases against their clients to be struck off. Public Prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello agreed that the crimes against de Cartier no longer stood.
The Court adjourned until 3:28 p.m. when the Judges returned to the courtroom and announced that Schmidheiney's prison sentence had been increased by two years; the Public Prosecutor had wanted it upped by four years.2 A report from an observer in the Court has informed us that damages have been awarded for the asbestos environmental pollution in Naples and Rubiera, localities which had been excluded from the first instance judgment. The Court raised the level of compensation due to some organizations and municipalities including the town of Casale Monferrato; its first instance damages of €25 million have been raised to €31m. The Appeal Court held Stephan Schmidheiny liable for damages to 2,889 victims who had been exposed to Eternit's asbestos from June 1976 until 1986. Because the defendants had been found jointly and severally liable, Schmidheiny was sentenced to pay all the court costs. After the verdict had been read, Schmidheiny's lawyer said No one will invest in Italy now. The response of Public Prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello was I hope people like that will not. The death of Cartier de Marchienne means that plaintiffs who had been suing him or Etex, the company which he was associated with, will now have to mount civil proceedings in Belgium to obtain damages. More details will be forthcoming in the coming weeks with a full written text of the ruling anticipated later this summer.
June 3, 2013
1 Kazan-Allen L. Landmark Victory for Italian Asbestos Victims. February18, 2012
Kazan-Allen L. Great Asbestos Trial: Post-Verdict Developments. July 12, 2012.
2 Billionaire's jail term for asbestos deaths upped to 18 yrs. June 3, 2013.