Asbestos cancer litigation. Our firm filed its first case on behalf of an asbestos victim in 1974 and since then has represented thousands of injured workers and their family members in court cases. I have also represented their interests through my service on creditors' committees for asbestos disease victims in the reorganizations of asbestos companies that sought to avoid their responsibility through bankruptcy, and as an advisor to Trust Funds established as a result of such reorganizations.Example cases
These are summaries of some verdicts obtained by our lawyers in cases that have gone all the way through trial. It may seem strange that there aren't very many, and most of them are quite old. Why do we say we are trial lawyers when we try so few cases to verdict? We accept a relatively small number of cases and prepare every one of them for trial. Over the years, defendants and their lawyers have learned that trying cases against us is rarely productive and almost always very expensive. As a result, they are anxious to settle cases with us.
Even when we start trial, we almost always resolve it by settlement before a verdict. Other lawyers report settlements on their web sites; we do not.
Our settlements are confidential for two reasons. First, our clients never want their personal financial information spread all over the Internet, and if we listed those settlements, everyone would know how much money that client received. Second, defendants who settle with us don't want other defense lawyers to know how much they have paid our clients. They certainly don't want other plaintiffs' lawyers to know, because if word got out, those lawyers would try to get the kind of settlements we get.
So, if we bragged about our settlements as others do, it would let people figure out which clients got how much, and it would hurt all our future clients because it would reduce the potential for getting them the kinds of settlements we have gotten others in the past. Since our primary responsibility is to do the very best we can for every client, the decision to forego "bragging rights" is an easy one. So, while this list might make it look as if we don't do much, it actually demonstrates how well we really do for our clients.
If you have a case, we would be pleased to evaluate it for you and give you our honest and well thought-out assessment of its potential on a private and confidential basis. You can be confident that unless we go to jury verdict, no one will ever know how much we recovered for you.
Ulysses Collins and Cloristeen Collins v. Plant Insulation Company (2009)
Alameda County Superior Court No. RG04143303
Honorable Harry Sheppard, Alameda County Superior Court Judge
Plaintiffs: Ulysses Collins, Cloristeen Collins, and Patricia Collins
Defendant: Plant Insulation Company
Ulysses Collins died of mesothelioma at the age of sixty-five. He was a welder at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard from 1960-1973, a welder/boilermaker at Standard Oil in Richmond, California from 1973-1976, and a welder at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California from 1976-1994.
The case settled before trial with various defendants and proceeded to trial only against Plant Insulation. Plant was the exclusive Northern California supplier of asbestos-containing thermal insulation manufactured by Pabco/Fibreboard in Emeryville, California. Plant also was an insulation contractor at numerous industrial and commercial sites in Northern California.
Trial commenced on October 2, 2008 and the jury returned a verdict on November 6, 2008. The jury verdict for plaintiffs was $10,038,000, which included $1,038,000 in economic damages. The jury determined that Plant was 20% liable for Mr. Collins' mesothelioma.
Robert Frank Smith and Mary Lou Smith v. Pneumo Abex LLC (2009)
Los Angeles County Superior Court Docket No. BC396072
On March 25, 2009, a Los Angeles jury returned a verdict of $4,055,000 against Pneumo Abex LLC for Robert and Mary Lou Smith.
Robert Smith, age 65, worked from 1968 to 1971 as an automobile serviceman for Southern California Edison in Long Beach, California. He and his fellow workers regularly inspected, removed, and replaced asbestos-containing brakes on the Southern California Edison's fleet of vehicles, causing him to breathe deadly asbestos dust. Pneumo Abex LLC manufactured many of these brakes, which Edison purchased from a local NAPA store. Mr. Smith was also exposed to asbestos while working as a truck driver from 1971 to the early 1980s hauling used brake shoes to and from a Sears, Roebuck & Co. facility.
Robert Smith was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer. The Kazan firm filed suit on behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Smith in June 2008. Evidence at trial showed that Pneumo Abex had been aware of the deadly health effects of breathing asbestos dust since at least the 1940s, but that Pneumo Abex did not begin warning its customers of those effects until years after Mr. Smith was exposed to the asbestos-containing brakes it made and sold. Indeed, Pneumo Abex was involved in medical studies regarding the health effects of asbestos at Saranac Laboratory in New York during the 1930s and 1940s and its Medical Director was a frequent speaker on asbestos health hazards during the 1940s. Despite its knowledge of the hazards of asbestos, Pneumo Abex continued to sell asbestos-containing brakes until 1987. The jury found that Pneumo Abex defectively designed its brakes, failed to adequately warn consumers and customers of the dangers its brakes posed, and was negligent, all of which contributed to causing Mr. Smith's mesothelioma. The jury did not apportion liability to Sears. The jury awarded Mr. Smith $900,000 for his past and future medical expenses, $480,000 for his lost income and household services, and $2,500,000 for his pain and suffering. The jury also awarded Mary Lou Smith, his wife of over 44 years, $175,000 for her loss of her husband's support and companionship.
Karen Peterson and Jeffrey Peterson v. Hill Brothers Chemical Company (2002)
Alameda County Superior Court 2001-031817
On June 4, 2002, an Alameda County Superior Court jury returned a verdict in excess of $20 million for Karen and Jeffrey Peterson. Total responsibility (100%) for plaintiff's mesothelioma cancer was assessed against Hill Brothers Chemical Company, a Southern California chemical company that is based in Orange, California. The jury also found that defendant Hill Brothers Chemical's conduct was undertaken with malice, oppression or fraud, requiring an additional phase of the trial to determine an amount of punitive damages. The defendant avoided this phase by making an undisclosed settlement award.
Karen Peterson, age 42, was exposed to asbestos in her own family home from products manufactured by defendant Hill Brothers Chemical Company from the time of her birth until she left home at age 18 to attend college. The asbestos-containing cementitious magnesite floor which exposed plaintiff to asbestos is still in place in tens of thousands of homes today. Trial evidence included an estimate of 4 million square feet of the flooring still in place in family homes in Los Angeles and elsewhere in California. Although Hill Brothers Chemical Company's products sold today do not contain asbestos, the company makes an exclusive line of accessory products, including sealers and repair products, that are specifically marketed to be used on existing asbestos-containing magnesite floors installed from the 1920s through 1977. Plaintiffs and their attorneys consider both the current existence of these floors and the Hill Brothers Chemical's recommended restoration practice for these asbestos-containing floors (including sanding and wire brushing) to be a significant public health issue. If left unaddressed, in place magnesite flooring and refurbishing practices have the potential to expose an infinite number of persons to asbestos fibers now and put people at increased risk for serious and potentially fatal asbestos cancers many decades into the future.
Don Lee Henderson & Marlene Henderson v. Eternit, Inc. (2001)
Alameda County Superior Court 843027-6
An Alameda County jury entered an $11,500,000 verdict for a Martinez, California former construction project estimator based on his career exposure to asbestos-containing products, particularly, cement-asbestos board. Eternit, Inc., the only remaining defendant at trial, was apportioned roughly $2,500,000 in liability based on the design defect, failure to warn and negligent supply of their enameled cement asbestos board, Glasweld and Flexweld.
Don Lee Henderson, the primary plaintiff, worked the majority of his career following his U.S. Navy service as an construction project estimator in both Northern and Southern California. The nature of his work as a project estimator required him to visit numerous construction sites where asbestos-containing materials were being fabricated and installed. In addition, he was continuously exposed to asbestos dust while on his own employers' premises, where multiple manufacturers' asbestos-containing products were stored and fabricated, including those of defendant Eternit, Inc.
The Kazan firm filed suit on behalf of Mr. Henderson in July 2001 and the unanimous verdict against Eternit came in mid-December: the defendant was found liable on three different theories of liability while simultaneously clearing Mr. Henderson of any negligence himself. Mr. Henderson was awarded over $500,000 in economic damages and $6,000,000 for pain, suffering and other non-economic damages. His wife and the second plaintiff in the case, Marlene Henderson, was awarded $5,000,000 for the loss of her husband's consortium and companionship caused by his mesothelioma.
William Hardcastle and Vonda Hardcastle v. J-M A/C Pipe Corporation (2001)
Alameda County Superior Court 830058-2
On April 12, 2001, Bill and Vonda Hardcastle were awarded $20,500,000 by an Alameda County jury in California. Bill Hardcastle contracted a rare cancer which he alleged was caused by the asbestos released at his workplace by the manufacture of asbestos-cement pipe. The defendant was J-M A/C Pipe Co. of Stockton, California.
Bill Hardcastle worked from 1959 until his cancer diagnosis, at a pipe manufacturing plant in Stockton, California. His original employer was Johns-Manville Corporation. From 1959-1974 Bill Hardcastle was involved in the production of asbestos-containing pipe which at the time was primarily used for water transmission. In 1974, out of concern for his health, Bill Hardcastle transferred to the plastic pipe operations, with only partial walls separating the plastic pipe manufacturing operation from the asbestos cement pipe production in the rest of the facility.
Experts testified at trial that during the 1980's J-M A/C Pipe knew that there was no safe level of asbestos exposure and that even if they hadn't cheated on air quality testing with advance clean-up operations, their own standards were too lenient to protect workers' health.
The jury was unanimous in finding J-M A/C Pipe negligent and its actions malicious. They awarded Bill and Vonda Hardcastle $10,000,000 each as compensatory damages. After hearing financial information about the defendants net worth of $1.1 million the jury also awarded $500,000 in punitive damages.
Jeanette Franklin v. USX Corporation (2000)
Alameda County Superior Court 816407-0
We obtained a verdict of $6,500,000 in an asbestos cancer case that arose after childhood household exposure to asbestos for Jeanette Franklin. She was a little girl in the 1940s when both of her parents worked at USX Corporation's Western Pipe & Steel shipyard in South San Francisco. Her father was a burner (welder) and her mother a ship's carpenter's assistant. Her parents unknowingly carried deadly asbestos fibers home on their clothing, and their young children were exposed.
In March 1999, Jeanette Franklin was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer, and on August 25, 1999, The Firm filed suit on her behalf. By February 2000, the case was settled with almost all of the defendants except USX Corporation. USX is the successor corporation to Western Pipe & Steel shipyard, and refused to offer even $1.
Hamilton v. Asbestos Corporation, Ltd. (5/15/00)
22 Cal. 4th 1127, 2000 WL 576190
In an important victory for literally tens of thousands of asbestos disease victims, the California Supreme Court concluded that those who previously filed suit for non-fatal asbestos-related breathing disorders are not barred from filing a second lawsuit if and when they are diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-caused illness.
This decision reversed a lower court's judgment that prohibited former shipyard worker, Arthur Mitchell, from recovering damages for his mesothelioma - even though Mr. Mitchell filed his lawsuit within one month of being diagnosed with mesothelioma. The lower court argued that Mr. Mitchell's mesothelioma lawsuit was barred because he previously filed suit for non-terminal asbestosis with which he was diagnosed in 1979.
The California Supreme Court concluded that the relevant statute of limitations means what it says, so that asbestos disease claims are not time-barred unless they are filed more than one year after the victim is unable to work in his or her regular occupation because of the asbestos-caused illness.
Morton v Owens Corning Fiberglas (1995)
33 Cal.App.4th 1539
Mr. Morton, age 52, had worked for less than a year at the New York Shipbuilding Yard, New Jersey, during construction of USS Kitty Hawk. The jury returned a verdict in his favor in the amount of $3,484,170. The defendant, Owens Corning Fiberglas, appealed. The Court held that the "consumers expectation" test as presented by The Firm was sufficient to prove that OCF's asbestos was defective under strict liability theories and that "state-of-the-art" evidence was neither necessary nor relevant. The Court therefore agreed that it was proper to exclude such evidence.
Treadway v Owens Corning Fiberglas (1995)
Alameda County Superior Court 738601-1
Mr. Treadway was exposed to Owens Corning Fiberglas' asbestos products while serving in the US Navy. The jury found that OCF's products were a cause of Mr. Treadway's mesothelioma, and they returned a verdict in the amount of $4,245,763.
Alfaro v Owens Corning Fiberglas (1994)
Alameda County Superior Court 727494-4
Mr. Alfaro had been a US Navy boiler repairman and a process operator at the Tosco Oil refinery. We proved that Owens Corning Fiberglas' asbestos products (specifically, "Kaylo" insulation) were defective and a substantial factor in causing Mr. Alfaro's mesothelioma. The jury awarded $6,939,279.01, which included punitive damages in the amount of $4,500,000.01 to punish OCF.
Salazar, Francom, and Hockenhull v Owens Corning Fiberglas (1994)
Alameda County Superior Court 645254-8 (consolidated)
The Firm consolidated these three wrongful death cases for trial. Plaintiffs were awarded damages of $6,665,500 in Salazar (Mr. Salazar was a laboratory technician at a uranium mill and suffered from peritoneal mesothelioma); $3,685,000 in Francom (Mr. Francom had pleural mesothelioma and was a career shipyard worker); and $5,245,000 in Hockenhull (Mr. Hockenhull was a laborer, who was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma.) The award included punitive damages of $1 million per case, for a total of $16,595,500.
Cardia v Fibreboard Corporation (1991)
Alameda County Superior Court 669982-2
The Firm proved that asbestos products caused Mr. Cardia's mesothelioma, and the jury returned a verdict for this 56 year old man in the amount of $5,093,351.
Paquin v Celotex Corporation (1989)
Alameda County Superior Court 651932-8
The jury returned a verdict for Mr. Paquin, age 52, in the amount of $4,193,773.10. At that time, it was the highest verdict ever obtained in an asbestos case in California.
Speake v Johns-Manville (1982)
Superior Court of Contra Costa County 16099-3
We tried the first successful factory worker asbestos case in the United States against Johns-Manville, based in part on the exception to the workers' compensation exclusive remedy as provided under Rudkin, and obtained a $150,000 verdict in a case of asbestosis.
JM Products Corporation v Superior Court of Contra Costa County (1980)
27 Cal.App.3d 465 (Rudkin)
A landmark California Supreme Court case for our client, Reba Rudkin, a worker at Johns-Manville's asbestos manufacturing plant in Pittsburg, California. The Court held that a worker can sue his/her employer in a civil action (in addition to workers' compensation) if the employer aggravates an existing injury known to the employer. This established an exception to the "workers' compensation exclusive remedy" rule, later codified in Section 3602(b)(2) of the California Labor Code Section.
This list is a sampling of some of the trial verdicts and appellate decisions obtained by attorneys at the firm. Of course, our principals and associates have also successfully tried and settled many other cases.
Assistant to the General Counsel of the Interstate Commerce Commission, Washington, DC (1967 to 1969); appellate attorney defending the Commissioner's decisions in courts throughout the United States.
Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California (1969 to 1971); assigned to the Civil Division, representing the United States and its agencies in litigation.
Werchick & Werchick, San Francisco (1971 to 1974); associate attorney representing plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases.
I've been a dish washer, ditch digger, cotton picker, floor boy in a garment factory, florist's assistant, and machine shop helper. All these jobs helped me develop an appreciation of those who go to work every day and work hard, and taught me to understand their lives and needs, which in turn helped me learn how to speak on their behalf. Being a trial lawyer is all about communicating with people, and that's what I do!
36 years of focused effort at one goal.
My style is laid-back and casual on the surface; intense below.
* Nolo has confirmed that every member attorney has a valid license and is in good standing with the state agency that licenses lawyers. Any past disbarments and suspensions (with possible exceptions for minor violations or nonpayment of dues, in our discretion) will be indicated accordingly in the badge. Member attorneys are required to notify Nolo immediately if they become the subject of any disciplinary action by any state licensing agency.