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TorranceCalifornia – Asbestos Company – $4.3 Million Asbestos Lung Cancer Verdict
GEORGE SMITH vs. AP GREEN INDUSTRIES INC. ET AL
May 23, 2001, San Francisco Superior Court, Case number: 315105
Description of Case: George Smith worked as apipefitter at the Mobil Oil refinery inTorrance,California in 1966. He was exposed to asbestos on the job and later developed lung cancer. The asbestos exposure came from the insulation products he used, and from asbestos dust raised by other employees, of which he had no warning.
Resolution:$4.3 million verdict against Mobil Oil Corporation
Economic damages: $2.5 million
Non-economic damages: $319,000
Non-economic damages: to his wife, Hanna, $1.5 million for loss of consortium Mobil Oil was held to be 12.5% responsible for George's illness, for "failure to use reasonable care."
TorranceCalifornia – Second Hand Exposure – $11.5 Million Mesothelioma Verdict
San Francisco Jury Returns $11.5 Million VerdictAgainst UNOCAL for Pipefitter's Wife in Gunderson Trial
On December 12, 2002, aSan Franciscojury awarded $11,550,750 to Genevieve Gunderson ofTorrance,California, for a terminal cancer she contracted from her husband's clothing in the 1950s. The verdict against Unocal was on three separate theories of negligence. Ms. Gunderson is dying ofmesothelioma, an incurable asbestos-caused cancer.
Genevieve Gunderson is a 75-year-old homemaker and retired hairdresser fromTorrance,California, who was exposed to asbestos from her former husband, Gordon Fraser's, work as a pipefitter at industrial sites, including Unocal inWilmington,California, from 1948 to 1963.
In October, 2001, Genevieve Gunderson, mother of one adult child, four grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren, was diagnosed withmesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Ms. Gunderson's prognosis is terminal and she has been given only months to live.
Ms. Gunderson filed her lawsuit inSan Francisco in March, 2002. In October, 2002, following a three-week jury trial and three days of deliberation, the jury found the remaining defendant, Unocal, 9.3% at fault. Ms. Gunderson was exposed to asbestos in her home when she shook out and laundered her husband's work clothing. Her former husband, Mr. Fraser, worked at the Unocal refinery inWilmington,California, as a pipefitter, intermittently for approximately three years from 1948 to 1963 during their marriage.
The jury found that Ms. Gunderson suffered $550,750 in lost income and medical expenses based upon the expert testimony ofSanta Rosa economist Dr. Barry Ben-Zion andBerkeley pulmonologist Dr. Barry Horn. Ms. Gunderson was also awarded $11 million for her pain and suffering. Evidence was presented that cancers such as Ms. Gunderson's can be caused by relatively low exposures, including dust brought home on workers' clothing. Though largely ignored, the industrial community was well aware of recommendations for providing workers who worked around asbestos and other harmful dust with changing rooms, work clothing, and workplace laundry service.
"This is another chapter in the continuing tragedy created by industry's indifference to worker safety and particularly to asbestos hazards," stated Ms. Gunderson's lawyer, ofBerkeley,California. "Ms. Gunderson is pleased with the jury's decision. While it will not change her terminal condition, it will provide her with some satisfaction that those who caused this problem are being made to take responsibility."
The case was initially filed in March, 2002, against 40 separate defendants, and was advanced to trial quickly because of Ms. Gunderson's terminal condition. Before trial all defendants except Unocal, Chevron, and Fluor Corporation settled. Chevron and Fluor Corporation settled during trial. The total verdict will be reduced by the other parties' settlements. The final judgment against Unocal is estimated to be approximately $1.5 million.
Case Summary: Plaintiff, Genevieve Gunderson, is 75 years old and is dying frommesothelioma. She alleged she contractedmesothelioma from asbestos exposure brought home by her ex-husband from 1948 to 1963. It was undisputed that Ms. Gunderson has an asbestos-causedmesothelioma.
Her ex-husband, Gordon Fraser, was a pipefitter at large industrialsites from 1946 to 1982 throughoutSouthern California. He was married to Ms. Gunderson from 1948 to 1963. During the marriage, he wore his work clothes home and she laundered them twice weekly. He worked at Union Oil (Unocal) on several large construction projects for a total time of approximately three years from 1948 to 1963. These were all new construction projects and his employers were Bechtel and Flour Corporation (both of whom settled during the trial).
Unocal presented both duty and state-of-the-art defenses. Defendant argued it was unforeseeable that before 1960, "take-home" exposures could cause disease. Therefore, they argued no duty as a matter of law (the court denied all motions on this issue). They also argued that they were not negligent. They supported their case with the expert testimony of Dr. William Hughson, a pulmonologist and HowardSpielman, a Certified Industrial Hygienist. Plaintiff responded with state-of-the-art testimony of Dr. BarryCastleman.
The defendant found in plaintiff's favor on three separate theories of ordinary negligence, premises liability, and peculiar risk.
Jury trial: Genevieve J. Gunderson v. A. W. Chesterton Company, et al. San Francisco Superior Court Case No. 406207
Judge: The HonorableTomar Mason, Department 608
Case filed: March 29, 2002
Verdict rendered: December 12, 2002
Total verdict: Total Economic Damages $550,750 Total Non-Economic Damages $11 million
Trial testimony: three weeks; deliberations lasted three days
Trial commenced: November 14, 2002 and concluded December 12, 2002
Allocation: 90.7% to all other defendants; 9.3% to Union Oil Net judgment after settlement verdict and costs approximately $1,485,725
Plaintiff’s experts included: Richard Hatfield, Materials Analyst Specialist, Atlanta, GA Barry R. Horn, M.D., Pulmonologist, Berkeley, CA BarryCastleman, M.D., Medical State of the Art, Baltimore, MD Barry Ben-Zion, Ph.D., Economist, Santa Rosa, CA Kenneth Cohen, C.I.H, Ph.D., El Cajon, CA Allan Smith, M.D., PhD., Epidemiologist, Oakland, CA
Defense experts included: William Hughson, M.D. Pulmonologist,San Diego,CA HowardSpielman, Certified Industrial Hygienist,Los Alamitos,CA
Prior settlement negotiations: Plaintiff served CCP§ 998 offer for $300,000 which was rejected. During the trial plaintiff's last demand was $700,000.