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OaklandCalifornia – Asbestos Company - $4.2 Mesothelioma Verdict
Asbestos verdict nets $4.2 million; Award for San Ramon terminal cancer patient is the first involving Bakelite
Tuesday, July 30th, 2002.
By John Simerman, Contra Costa Times
A jury has awarded a $4.2 million verdict to a cancer-stricken San Ramon man and his wife for exposure to asbestos-laden plastics when he worked at the Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard.
But the man, Victor Trinchese, may see only a fraction of that money, because the jury found Union Carbide only partly at fault.
The 61-year-old Italian immigrant, an electrician at the shipyard from 1969 to 1980, suffers from terminal mesothelioma. The cancer affects the surface linings of the chest or abdominal cavity and has been linked to asbestos exposure.
Trinchese was diagnosed in August; he sued in October, claiming Union Carbide was negligent in manufacturing asbestos-containing Bakelite plastics in switching panels that Trinchese handled on Navy vessels at the shipyard. The company argued that there was no proof that Union Carbide produced the compounds in those panels.
ASan Francisco jury last week found the company 5 percent negligent.
The jury awarded Trinchese $1.6 million in lost income and medical expenses, $1.8 million for pain and suffering and $800,000 to his wife, Francesca, for loss of her husband’s care and comfort. But since the jury held the company only fractionally negligent, and because of earlier settlements with other defendants, the total award may be reduced to $1 million or less.
It is the first time a jury has granted a favorable verdict in a Bakelite case, said Phil Harley, Trinchese’sBerkeley attorney. Trinchese also won $1 million in previous settlements, Harley said.
“It’s a case that opens up new avenues of recovery for electricians, because they use this product all over the place,” Harley said.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 people in theUnited States are diagnosed each year with mesothelioma, according to the American Cancer Society. Average survival is about a year.
Doctors removed the lining of Trinchese’s left lung last year. The cancer has metastasized to his heart and right lung, Harley said.
Union Carbide completed a merger with the Dow Chemical Company in January 2001. John Brydon, Union Carbide’s attorney in the case, said he would appeal the verdict.
“We did not think there was ample evidence that he ever actually worked with a product made with the material that was produced by Union Carbide,” Brydon said.
Brydon said many companies would buy the Bakelite material in a molding compound or resin and then “add things to it, like asbestos.”
“We don’t really know what product he worked with,” Brydon said.
Bakelite was a revolutionary plastic in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. Union Carbide acquired it in 1939. Not all Bakelite contains asbestos, but Harley said the switching panels that Trinchese handled were a mixture of the plastic and as much as 50 percent asbestos.
Trinchese came to theUnited States in 1967 fromNola,Italy, a small town nearNaples. After working in the shipyard, he was an electrician for thePort ofOakland until his diagnosis. He moved to San Ramon nine years ago.
“He walks with his dog, tries to keep his mind off things,” said his son, Saverio Trinchese. “The money’s nothing. He doesn’t care. He wants his health back. He wants to be what he used to be.”
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