ASBESTOS NEWS DAILY - Los Angeles
Los Angeles Mesothelioma: Legal News
WE CONNECT YOU WITH EXPERIENCED LOS ANGELES MESOTHELIOMA LAWYERS.
Finding the right Los Angeles Mesothelioma Lawyer to handle your case can be a very difficult and a time consuming task.Lawyers are very busy and may not be available to talk to you in your time of greatest need. We are here to assist you in finding an experienced Los Angeles Mesothelioma Lawyer to help you with yourlegal situation.
Asbestos News Daily`sFREE Lawyer Placement Service will connect you with experienced Los Angeles Mesothelioma Lawyer.
Having experienced legal representation can save you a lot of time and hard earned money.
We believe that people have the right to find the best possible legal representation from the most experienced lawyers.
We have developed relationships with the experienced Los Angeles Mesothelioma Lawyers that we know will work hard to win your case.
We cannot help solve everyone's legal situation, but we can help you to know your legal options and know that we are here to help you through the process of getting the legal help that you need.
Tell us about your case and a legal placement specialist will contact you within 24-48 hours.
POST YOUR CASE. GET RESULTS!
Los Angeles – Asbestos Trades – $200 Million Mesothelioma Jury Award
SUNDAY, MAY 09, 2010 7:32:00 PM
Staggering award inCalifornia, asbestos case not expected to stand
BY CHRIS RIZO
LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline)-The Southern California jury that awarded a whopping $200 million punitive damages award in ahousehold-contact asbestos exposure case in which jurors awarded compensatory damages of $8.8 million will likely be reversed, a leading legal scholar said Sunday.
What could become the largest mesothelioma lawsuit award inCalifornia history was handed out late last month inLos AngelesCounty, home to one of the worst legal climates in the nation, according to civil defense lawyers.
"The award is unlikely to stand under California law, though I couldn't say if it's the trial court or appellate court that will reverse," Ted Frank, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute Center for Legal Policy, told Legal Newsline.
In a move that signals judicial scrutiny of the jury award,Los AngelesCounty Superior Court Judge Conrad Richard Aragon has postponed entering the judgment, which has a ratio of punitive damages to compensatory damages of nearly 23:1.
Aragon has asked the plaintiffs' lawyers and defense counsel to submit briefs on what their side seen as an appropriate punitive damages award in the case.
In reporting on the decision legal blogger and attorney Bruce Nye ofSan Francisco expressed little surprise that the gigantic jury award was given in the jurisdiction it was.
"Ah yes, there will always beLos Angeles juries," the managing partner of Adams Nye Trapani Becht wrote on his CalBizLit.com Web site.
A Harris Interactive survey of 1,482 top corporate lawyers and executives released in March rankedLos Angeles County's courts as the second-worst in the nation for legal fairness, partly because of what critics decry as exorbitant damage awards issued by juries there.
If allowed to stand, the punitive damages award would dwarf the largest award currently to survive appeal inCalifornia - $55 million awarded to SUV rollover crash victim Benetta Buell-Wilson and her husband in 2004 in aSan DiegoCounty case against Ford Motor Co. The Michigan-based carmaker ultimately appealed its judgment to the U.S. Supreme Court, which last year rejected Ford's arguments.
As for theLos Angeles case, it is among asbestos-exposure lawsuits that comprise the longest-running mass tort inU.S. history. Since 1929, when the first asbestos-exposure case was filed, more than 600,000 people have filed lawsuits in American courts after being diagnosed with asbestos-related conditions including mesothelioma and asbestosis.
TheLos Angeles case was filed by Rhoda Evans, who claimed her mesothelioma, a rare lung cancer, was caused by asbestos fibers and dust she breathed while washing work clothes belonging to her husband, a former longtime employee at the county's Department of Water and Power.
In his 24 years at the public works department, Bobby Evans was charged with cutting cement pipes containing crocidolite, a dangerous asbestos fiber. He started working at DWP in 1973.
The pipe was made by building materials manufacturer CertainTeed Corp., which at trial argued the county knew the pipes should only be cut with manual tools to protect workers.
Evans's attorneys said CertainTeed actually concealed the risk of asbestos exposure from DWP officials in an effort to protect the $40 million in annual revenues the company made on selling asbestos-containing cement pipe to the county.
Siding with plaintiffs' counsel William Levin of the Simes Kaiser & Gornick law firm ofSan Francisco, jurors determined that the company knew asbestos caused cancer in the 1960s, but did not place cancer warnings on its products until 1985.
In the company's defense, CertainTeed's attorney, William Sayers of McKenna Long & Aldridge, said the Department of Water and Power "knew generally" about the pipes' hazards but still began using a gas-powered saw to cut them, ignoring risks to employees' safety.
"They were cutting safely until 1978," Sayers was quoted as saying by Courtroom View Network, which broadcast the trial on the Internet.
CertainTeed is a wholly owned subsidiary of Compagnie de Saint-Gobain SA ofFrance.
The case is Evans v. AW Chesterton Co et al., case no. BC418867.
From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at firstname.lastname@example.org
Los Angeles – Asbestos Trades –Mesothelioma Lawsuit
Jury Rejects Plaintiffs' Attorney's 'Suggestion' for $26 Million in Damages in Asbestos Trial
A sign of things to come?
ALos Angelesjury has turned down an asbestos plaintiffs' lawyer's suggestion to award his clients $25 million in noneconomic damages and $1 million in economic damages.
Instead, the jury came back with a defense verdict in an asbestos case that lasted seven weeks and had started with eight defendants before five settled out, according toThe Recorder legal newspaper's Kate Moser.
The plaintiffs, represented by Gary Paul of Waters, Kraus & Paul, had originally sought more than $9 million. The firm, formerly called Waters & Kraus, was mentioned in an opinion piece published recently in theDaily Journal legal newspaper about how out-of-state plaintiffs' firms that file high-dollar asbestos claims are opening offices inCalifornia. According to the op-ed, "Dallas' Waters & Kraus, which opened a smallLos Angeles office in 2001, has been described by aDaily Journal reporter as having a 'prominent presence' since its 2006 merger with the plaintiffs' firm Paul & Janofsky." Gary Paul was installed over the summer as vice president of the national plaintiffs' lawyers' lobbying group.
The firm has also been criticized for tactics employed in someCalifornia cases.Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Aurelio Munoz has sharply criticized the firm for repeatedly filing cases inTexas, dismissing them, and then re-filing them inLos Angeles -- all in an apparent effort to play what he termed the "grisly game of asbestos litigation."
Meanwhile, according to theRecorder article, the plaintiffs in the asbestos case had asked the jury to make the three remaining defendants, Daimler Trucks North America, Ford Motor Co., and Kaiser Gypsum Company Inc., 35% responsible for the $25 million in noneconomic damages. The trio would have been jointly and severally liable for the economic damages.
The jury found that William James Goebel, who died at age 78, wasexposed to asbestos from Kaiser Gypsum and Ford, but that there was no defect in the design of those defendants' products. The jurors concluded Goebel was not exposed to asbestos from Daimler Trucks.
Defense-side lawyer Eliot Jubelirer, also not involved in the case, wondered whether the plaintiff had asked too much.
"I think the plaintiff lawyers are testing to see how large an award they can ask for without the jury rejecting it," Jubelirer, a partner in theSan Francisco office of Schiff Hardin, told the paper. "Perhaps they overstepped the line here and asked for too much and they may have soured the jurors."
Los Angeles – Asbestos Exposure – $12.1 Million Mesothelioma Award
U.S. Navy Machinist's Mate Awarded $12.1M in 1960s Asbestos-Exposure Case
Posted May 12th, 2009 bymarketnet
LOS ANGELES - May 11, 2009 - AnLA County jury has awarded$12.1 million to a U.S. Navy serviceman who was exposed to asbestos during a single tour of duty in the early 1960s.
The plaintiff in the case is Charles H.Cundiff, a 66-year-old retiredtruck driver who is terminally ill withmalignant pleuralmesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an insidious disease with asingel known cause: asbestos exposure. Mr.Cundiff's exposure occurred during his time as amachinist's mate aboard theUSS Kitty Hawk from 1962 to 1966.
The verdict was announced on May 6, after five days of jury deliberation. Mr.Cundiff wasawarded $10 million for pain and suffering and $506,000 in economic damages for lost wages. His wife, Glenda "Joyce"Cundiff, wasawarded $1.5 million for loss of consortium.
The jury foundmanufacturer John Crane, Inc. and supplier Lone Star Industries liable for both defective products and failure to warn.John Crane was assessed 5 percent liability;Lone Star was assigned 19 percent.
Lead trial attorney Gary M. Paul called the verdict notable, saying, "Today's verdict, right on the heels of theHaupt verdict, demonstrates that theTaylor decision does not result in justice being denied to the asbestos-exposed plaintiff. On the contrary, the jury found fault with both manufacturer and supplier, and not just for defective product, but also for failure to warn. This demonstrates that a strong case with clear product ID can extend the scope of responsibility to all vendors in the supply chain, including third parties, who knowingly provide harmful products to unsuspecting consumers."
The decision by theCalifornia Court of Appeal in Taylor vs.Crane Co. releases manufacturers from a duty to warn of thedangers of asbestos-containing components used in their products if those subcomponents are manufactured or supplied by a third party.
Mr.Cundiff was too ill to take the witness stand. His testimony was presented viadepostion, in which he detailed his work aboard theUSS Kitty Hawk during a four year tour of duty which included a nine month overhaul in thePuget Sound Naval
Shipyard. This work involved cleaning, repairing and replacingvalves,pumps,gaskets,packings and the use ofInsulag insulating cement in the No. 2 and No. 4engine rooms. It was dirty and dusty work that generated large amounts ofasbestos dust that he breathed with no protection.
The close-up work allowed him to recall product brand names stamped into the components.John Crane Inc. was among the product names he encountered. He also recalled seeing trucks with thePioneer Sand & Gravel name pulling into thePuget Sound Naval Shipyard carrying bags ofInsulag. Pioneer, a predecessor ofLone Star Industries, was a supplier ofInsulag, anindustrial insulation product used widely at the time.
The defense attempted to discredit Mr.Cundiff by asserting thatInsulag was not used in the overhaul of theKitty Hawk, and in fact, was not among the approved products that appeared on the Qualified Products List - or QPL - published by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). In addition, the defense claimed, hadInsulag been delivered to the site, it would not have been delivered in the manner described by Mr.Cundiff.
The testimony proved otherwise. During cross-examination, defense expert Thomas McCaffrey admitted that, in fact, there was noDoD Qualified Products List in existence at the time of Mr.Cundiff's service. Additionally, a rebuttal witness - who worked at theshipyard for nearly two decades and had not known Mr.Cundiff - corroborated thesailor's recollection of the manner in which theInsulag product was used, as well as deliveries toPuget Sound Naval Shipyard by Pioneer trucks.
WKP partner MikeArmitage commented, "Mr.Cundiff's recollection of brands and suppliers was sharp, honest, and in the end, indisputable. CharlesCundiff'sintergrity won the day. His courage and tenacity give hope to otherNavy families facing the deadly course ofmesothelioma due to asbestos exposure."
About Waters Kraus & Paul
Waters Kraus & Paul is the West Coast practice of Waters & Kraus, LLP - a nationally recognized plaintiffs' firm concentrating on complex product liability and personal injury/wrongful death cases,particulary asbestos-mesothelioma. In addition to toxic tort litigation, the firm's diverse practice includes pharmaceutical productliabilty, negligence, elder financial abuse, and consumer product liability, as well as qui tam (whistle-blower) and commercial litigation. With offices in California, Texas, and Maryland, Waters & Kraus has litigated cases in jurisdictions across the United States on behalf of individuals from all 50 states, as well as foreign governments.
222 North Sepulveda Boulevard, Suite 1900
Los Angeles – Asbestos Trades –$35.1 Million Mesothelioma Verdict
Jury Awards $35.1 Million to RetiredU.S. Navy
Boiler Tender Exposed to Asbestos
Verdict Is One of LA County’s Largest Ever in an Asbestos Case;
LOS ANGELES — October 17, 2007 — ALos Angeles County jury late last week handed down a$35.1 million verdict to a 74-year-old retired U.S. Navy boiler tender, validating that his exposure to asbestos in pump, valve and pipe parts more than five decades ago is the directcause of the deadlymesothelioma he suffers with today.
The verdict is among one of the largest-ever awards inLos AngelesCounty for a plaintiff in a Navy asbestos exposure case. The verdict includes $100,000 for economic damages; $25 million to the victim for pain and suffering; and $10 million to the victim’s wife for loss of consortium. Leslie Controls and Warren Pumps were each assessed 7.1 percent liability. The judge disallowed consideration of punitive damages.
The plaintiff, John R. "Jack" Davis, was diagnosed with pleuralmesothelioma in January 2007. A native ofIdaho,Davis served as a fireman and boiler tender aboard the U.S.S.DeHaven for 4 years during the Korean War. Following his honorable discharge in 1955, he worked for American Pipe and Steel, and Sound Control Company, before being hired by Shell Oil in 1956. He worked at Shell refineries in Dominguez andWilmington,California., until 1963.
In 1964,Davis returned toIdaho, where he worked for Philip Petroleum and successive contractors at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) while studying college-level electronics and computers. He retired from INEEL in 1995. Until hismesothelioma diagnosis earlier this year, he and his wife, Janette, enjoyed an active retirement that revolved around family, sports and outdoor activities with his two children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
In his testimony, the soft-spoken and affable plaintiff described his work as a boiler tender in the aft engine room of the U.S.S.DeHaven. He explained that he had volunteered for the assignment — considered to be one of the least desirable aboard ship in cramped, hot and dirty quarters.
He also asserted that he would have protected himself had he known the danger of being exposed to the asbestos in the myriad small pump and valve components that he handled daily, both as a boiler tender in the Navy, and for a short period after as a pipefitter and instrument man in the private sector.
Davis clearly identified the products he handled as manufactured and branded by Leslie Controls and Warren Pumps.
The defense argued that responsibility forDavis’ illness lie with the U.S. Navy and subsequent employers, not the manufacturers. The defense also attempted to argue thatDavis’ radiation exposure while employed at INEEL was a cause or contributing factor to hismesothelioma diagnosis. The judge disallowed the argument due to a lack of medical and scientific evidence.
The defense, in its closing argument, challenged the jury to "knock a zero off" whatever award they might consider for the plaintiff. The jury was asked to consider what amount of money would really be necessary to allow theDavises to live comfortably given their age and life expectancy.
MikeArmitage, managing partner of WK’sLos Angeles office commented, "The defense’s closing argument was brazen. Here is a good man, a hard-working man, a loving husband, and a model father. He served his country loyally and honorably without question,then spent a lifetime bettering himself to support his family.His reward? It’s essentially a death sentence that was totally avoidable had the manufacturers only made the effort to warn workers to protect themselves."
"No, this case wasn’t about living comfortably," said Gary M. Paul, a WK partner and lead attorney on the case. "It was about justice."
An appeal filed by Leslie Controls and Warren Pumps is currently pending.
Full story -- http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/10/18/ap4235335.html
Los Angeles – Asbestos Company – $4 Million Mesothelioma Verdict
Southern CaliforniaEdison Brake Mechanic Gets $4 Million
Robert Frank Smith and Mary Lou Smith v.PneumoAbex LLC (2009)
Los AngelesCounty Superior Court Docket No. BC396072
On March 25, 2009, aLos Angelesjury returned a verdict of $4,055,000 againstPneumoAbex LLC for Robert and Mary Lou Smith.
Robert Smith, age 65, worked from 1968 to 1971 as a automobile serviceman for Southern California Edison inLong 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.PneumoAbex LLC manufactured many of these brakes, which Edison purchased from a localNAPA 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 wasdiagnosed withmesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer. TheKazan firm filed suit on behalf ofMr.and Mrs. Smith in June 2008. Evidence at trial showed thatPneumoAbex had been aware of the deadly health effects of breathing asbestos dust since at least the 1940s, but thatPneumoAbex 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,PneumoAbex was involved in medical studies regarding the health effects of asbestos at Saranac Laboratory inNew 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,PneumoAbex continued to sell asbestos-containing brakes until 1987. The jury found thatPneumoAbex 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’smesothelioma. 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.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith were represented at trial by Firm principal Phillip Harley and associates JustinBosl and MatthewThiel.
Los AngelesCounty – Asbestos Company – $16.925 Million Mesothelioma Verdict
Woodard vs. Alfa Laval, Inc.et.al.
66-year-old Dennis Woodard was diagnosed with malignant pleuralMesotheliomain January 2008. He was exposed to asbestos during a 32-month period aboard theUSS Rogersas a machinist's mate, and later as an electrician's mate aboard theUSS Salisbury Sound. His 8-month tour aboard theUSS Rogersconstituted the most acute exposure, where he daily worked in the ship's boiler and engine rooms helping to repair and maintain a variety of steam lines, pumps, valves,and turbines. Crane Co. argued that the type and amount of asbestos (chrysotile) in their products would not have caused his illness, but pipe insulation manufactured by others likely would have. Defense also contended the U. S. Navy bore full responsibility for protecting its sailors. The jury found Crane Co. liable for its failure to warn.
- February 2, 2009
- $16.925M total award: $1.925M in economic damages, $12.5M for pain and suffering, $2.5M for loss of consortium
- Approx. $2.0M assessed against Crane Co.
- Crane Co. and 9 others assessed 0.5% liability. Sepco Corporation, 0%.U.S. Navy, 85%. Nonspecified insulation manufacturers, 10%
- Punitive damages not considered by the jury
- Plaintiff's verdict in what was essentially a Navy bystander exposure case
- Jury clearly held manufacturers responsible for failure to warn
- Substantial economic damages awarded - thought to be one of the largest to date in LA County in an asbestos-mesothelioma case
- Cause No. BC 387 774
- Woodard v. Alfa Laval, Inc. et al.
- Trial length: 3 weeks
- Deliberation: 2.5 days
- Los Angeles County,Calif., Superior Court,Dept. 56
- Hon. Jane L. Johnson, presiding
Plaintiff's Experts (*live testimony, **video depostion)
- *Arnold Brody, M.D., cell biologist
- *Carl Brodkin, M.D., occupational and environmental medicine
- **Roy Smythe, M.D., thoracic surgeon and plaintiff's private physician
- *Arnold Moore, Naval architecture and marine engineering expert (USN, ret.)
Defense Experts(live testimony)
- Samuel Forman, M.D., occupational medicine
- Michael Graham, M.D., pathologist
- Adm. David P. Sargent, Jr. (USN, ret.), Navy expert
- Frederick Boelter, C.I.H., industrial hygienist
- Gary Paul (lead), Kevin Loew and Jillian Rice of Waters Kraus & Paul (LA)
- Daniel Wasserberg of Williams Kherkher Hart Boundas (Houston)
- (Crane Co.) Geoffrey Davis and James Lee of K&L Gates (LA)
- Sepco Corp.) Jerry Popovich of Selman Breitman (LA)
Los Angeles – Asbestos Related Deaths
Camco Is 6th In Asbestos Deaths
Study predicts number of cases will increase
Mar 4, 2004 |Cherry Hill Courier Post
A new study ranksCamdenCounty as having the sixth-most asbestos-related deaths in the nation.
Only counties with major citiesLos Angeles,Chicago,Philadelphia,Seattle andHouston had more deaths, according to the analysis of government health statistics by the Environmental Working Group.
In effect, the study suggests many of the region's elderly residents, the shipyard, refinery and factory workers of the past are paying with their health for the region's industrial might.
Jack Higgins was a longtimeCamden city resident and worked in maintenance departments at twoCamden shipyards and RCA. He was 80 when he died in 1997.
"You had to sit and watch the body deteriorate while the mind was sharp as a tack. It was heartbreaking," said his son, Timothy Higgins, aCollingswood attorney. He added his father had to use bottled oxygen the last years of his life.
"He would describe it as if he were drowning, like he was under water and couldn't breathe," Higgins said.
Camden County, which had an estimated 458 to 532 deaths between 1979 and 2001, even ranked just ahead of Somerset County, once home to the largest asbestos manufacturing plant in North America, owned by the Johns-Manville Corp.
The analysis, released today by the Washington, D.C.-based group, predicts the number of deaths will continue to rise as latency periods for some of the most serious forms of asbestos-related diseases end.
The analysis of government statistics lists 10 otherNew Jersey counties among the top 100 with the most asbestos-related deaths.GloucesterCounty ranked 50th andBurlingtonCounty is 59th.
Gregg Shivers is aCherry Hill lawyer whose firm has represented some 2,000 asbestos-related injury cases over the past 15 years.
He was surprised byCamdenCounty's high ranking, but said large numbers of county residents once worked in industries that used or made asbestos.
Camden's now-defunct New York Shipyard, for example, used asbestos in ship insulation, and Owens-Corning once manufactured asbestos insulation inBerlin, he said.
Anthony Olivo, 83, is a longtime Deptford resident. He worked around asbestos for 40 years as a pipe welder.
He says he has been coping well with the asbestosis, scarring of the lungs, that he contracted from decades of exposure. But he feels deeply responsible for the death of his wife, Eleanor, of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung linked directly to asbestos.
She died at the age of 82, less than two years after her diagnosis. She was exposed to the fibers from washing her husband's work clothes.
"Had I known, I would have thrown the clothes away and put a new set of clothes on," he said, crying in the living room of their small Cape Cod cottage where his wife spent her last days.
"I don't know why the good Lord didn't give it back to me. She didn't deserve what she got," he said.
The study comes at a time when Congress is debating financial bailout plans for asbestos manufacturers and their insurers.
Asbestos use and exposure peaked in the mid-1970s, the study said.
At that time, more than 3,000 consumer and industrial products contained asbestos, asbestos factories were polluting neighborhoods, workers were exposed on the job and bringing asbestos fibers home to their families. Asbestos was also widely used in many buildings, including factories and schools.
But asbestos-related diseases have a 20- to 50-year latency period, meaning a substantial portion of those exposed in the 1960s and 1970s are just now getting sick or showing up in government statistics, the study concludes.
Shivers expects an increase in the numbers of lung cancer and mesothelioma cases his firm will handle over the next decade because of the long latency periods for these diseases.
During the study period, at least 43,000 Americans died from mesothelioma and asbestosis. But the Environmental Working Group maintains the number could be much higher.
"The actual number of deaths from these two diseases could easily be twice as high due to chronic misdiagnoses of both diseases and the absence of federal tracking for mesothelioma for nearly all of the time period analyzed," the study reported.
The study adds that lung cancer deaths from asbestos exposure are not reported at all and asbestosis, a non-cancer disease, is still "dramatically underreported, even in worker populations where asbestos exposure is well established."
The federal government banned many uses of asbestos in the early 1980s, including use in ranges and ovens, refrigerators, dishwashers, deep fryers, electric blankets and popcorn poppers.
At the same time, asbestos remains widely used in brake shoes and roofing products, and can still be found in a number of other products, including cement wallboard, heating duct insulation, boiler insulation, vinyl floor tile and sheet flooring and pipe insulation, the study asserts. It also notes that these products are not required to be labeled as containing asbestos. The group is looking for a complete ban.
Cherry Hill Courier Post
Los Angeles – Asbestos Related Deaths
L.A. Tops Nation in Asbestos-Linked Deaths
Mar 4, 2004 |Los Angeles Daily News
Los AngelesCounty has more asbestos-related deaths than anywhere else in the country, and the incidence of illness caused by the mineral is expected to rise over the next 20 years, a report released today says.
The report by the Environmental Working Group estimated that 1,227 county residentsdied of asbestos-related illness from 1979 to 2001, slightly more than the 1,051 inCookCounty, Illinois., which encompasses theChicago area. Nationwide, some 10,000 people died of asbestos-related disease in 2002.
Experts saidLos Angeles' large population, plus the widespread asbestos use in the shipping industry and post-World War II construction, help explain the county's high death figures.
"We were just floored when we looked at the deaths from this substance," said Richard Wiles, senior vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based environmental group. "We need to think of this as a 50-year problem because we still haven't banned asbestos.
Asbestos fibers can become embedded in the lungs and cause asbestosis essentially, scar tissue in the lungs or a usually fatal form of cancer called mesothelioma. Not all people exposed to asbestos become ill, but even small amounts can cause mesothelioma.
Until its dangers became well-known, asbestos was commonly used in construction and insulation materials and as a fire retardant. Its use peaked in the mid-1970s, when there were more than 3,000 asbestos-laced products on the market, though there were few safeguards for workers and their families exposed to asbestos dust.
Even today, asbestos is used in some cement pipes, vinyl floor tiles, duct insulation, floor backing and decorative plaster.
Cancer and other diseases linked to asbestos can remain dormant for 20 to 50 years, meaning people who worked with the fibers before safeguards were phased in during the 1970s could still develop potentially fatal illnesses.
U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has proposed the creation of a trust fund, financed by asbestos manufacturers and insurance companies, to handle lawsuits filed by asbestos victims and their families without bankrupting businesses.
Insurance companies anticipate $120 billion in asbestos claims worldwide and have pushed for national legislation to cut litigation, streamline the compensation process and set aside money to help people diagnosed with asbestos diseases.
"We know that 90 percent of current claimants have no signs of illnesses, but they are trying to get in before all these companies go bankrupt," said Peter Moraga, spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California.
Already, some 70 companies have filed for bankruptcy protection.
Michelle Harrington has filed a $100,000 claim against W.R. Grace, which declared bankruptcy in 2001, in part because of damages awarded in wrongful-death suits stemming from its mine inLibby,Mont., where some 200 townspeople died from asbestos-related diseases.
The owner of Harrington Tools is seeking to be reimbursed for having to clean up asbestos contamination in theWest San Fernando Road building she bought in 1992 a structure previously owned by a company that processed more than 100,000 tons of insulation, using asbestos from the Libby mine.
"Not being my responsibility or my fault, I was absolutely furious," Harrington said. "Private companies cannot be held responsible or accountable for something they never did."
California toxicologists are analyzing historical cancer and cause-of-death data in the neighborhood around theWest San Fernando Road plant as part of a national study of plants that processed the Libby material potentially discovering a new group of victims who might seek compensation.
|Los Angeles Daily News
Los AngelesCalifornia - $10.9 Million Dollar Asbestos Verdict
$10.9 Million Asbestos Verdict
December 10, 2007
On December 7th, a jury inLos Angeles found in favor of Plaintiff Mr.Pelleys in the amount of $10.9 million, for injuries the jury foundwere caused, in part, by defendant John Crane company's asbestos-containing products. Defendant John Crane was found 25% "at fault", which will result in a Judgment in the amount of 25% of the "non-economic" damages, as well as all of the economic damages not off-set by prior settlements. The jury also found the necessary prerequisites for imposition of punitive damages. That portion of the trial begins today.
Plaintiff is represented by the Simon,Eddins law firm, with principal offices inTexas.