Asbestos Legal: Instrument Man
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Instrument Man – 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 — A Los 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 direct cause of thedeadly mesothelioma 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 pleural mesothelioma 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 his mesothelioma 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 andinstrument 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 his mesothelioma 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.
Mike Armitage, 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