(July 15, 2011)
A retired Californian plumber was recently awarded $41 million after a grueling trial. This comes as the result of developing mesothelioma from asbestos exposure.
John Casey began work as a licensed plumber in 1965 until his retirement in 2008. In January 2010 he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, resulting from years of exposure to asbestos.
After his doctor gave him a mere 12 to 18 months left to live, his attorney made a proactive decision to videotape Casey’s deposition prior to the trial, knowing how quickly symptoms of mesothelioma exasperate.
His lawyer also called on several experts to inform the jury about the health concerns and science involved with mesothelioma. Such experts included:
an industrial hygienist who testified about the exposures involved with plumbers like Casey
a pathologist who proved that mesolthelioma is incurable and has no surgical treatment options
and a cell biologist who took the jury step-by-step through the process of asbestos inhalation to clinical diagnosis, cancer, and death
Ten of the twelve original defendants dropped out of the case and settled after the start of the December 2010 trial. Their settlements totaled $7.8 million. The two remaining defendants were general contractor FDCC California, Inc. (formerly known as Dinwiddie Construction Co.) and Kaiser Gypsum Co., a manufacturer of wallboard materials that contained asbestos.
Both defendants argued that Casey was exposed to different kinds of asbestos from other defendants, and that their products did not contribute to his mesothelioma. Deliberation did not begin until March, which included a 14-question verdict form. Two-and-a-half weeks later, the jurors reported that they were stuck on the last question on the verdict form; the question that discusses punitive damages.
The judge recorded their verdict as to the first thirteen questions but declared a mistrial as to the final question. Although they awarded $20 million in compensatory damages, the jury only apportioned seven percent fault to FDCC and 3.5 percent to Kaiser Gypsum, thus reducing the damages to $2.8 million from FDCC and $1.8 million to Kaiser.
The judge ruled that the plaintiff had not presented ample evidence for the jury to include FDCC in punitive damages, so a new trial began with just Casey and Kaiser Gypsum.
A new jury was selected and they were once again asked about the final question on the verdict form as to whether Kaiser was guilty of acting with malice or oppression. Although the jury came back with an affirmative verdict, it was hard to put a dollar amount on the damages, as Kaiser’s assets were sold in 1978 and then transferred to another company.
However that did not deter Casey’s lawyer. He told the jury to consider the amount the liquidated assets would have grown to between 1978 and today. They determined that the liquidated assets would have been between $36 million and $45 million, which would have grown with inflation to $90 million or $492 million in risk-free treasury bills. The jury added an additional $21 million in punitive damages against Kaiser Gypsum.
If you or a loved one have developed mesothelioma, contact one of our lawyers, or call us at 1-800-246-4878.