Jury Awards $2.4 Million in San Diego Asbestos Exposure Case
Verdict ‘Cathartic’ for Navy Veteran and Wife
SAN DIEGO — Less than one year after 70-year-old Navy veteran William Mansir was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a San Diego Superior Court jury has reached a $2.4 million verdict against John Crane Inc., which manufactured asbestos-containing equipment and materials formerly used by the Navy. The announcement was made on Wednesday, July 20, and includes $1.8 million in past and present non-economic damages to Mr. Mansir and his wife, Teri.
Mr. Mansir worked in the boiler rooms of four Navy ships during his decade of service in the Navy, from 1961-1971. During that time, he was responsible for cleanup, maintenance and repair of equipment such as boilers, pumps, valves, and steam traps — many of which required regular removal and replacement of asbestos-containing gaskets and packing material manufactured by John Crane Inc. According to court documents, Mr. Mansir removed these materials “hundreds of times” using wire brushes, scrapers, and picks. This process generated dust particles, which Mr. Mansir inhaled.
In July 2010, Mr. Mansir thought he was having a heart attack and was admitted to the hospital. Although doctors were unable to identify any heart issues, a CT scan revealed significant changes in his left lung. A biopsy was later performed to identify the cause of his distress. In September 2010, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma— a particularly aggressive type of cancer that can lie dormant for more than 40 years. Most victims die within six to 18 months of diagnosis.
The case was filed on November 15, 2010, and originally named 21 defendants. By the time the trial commenced on June 3, 2011, only two defendants remained — John Crane Inc. and Kelly-Moore, a maker of asbestos-containing joint compounds used by Mr. Mansir during an 18-month job as a construction supervisor in the mid-1970s. Shortly after opening statements and videotape depositions detailing his construction exposure, Kelly-Moore settled, leaving John Crane as the sole defendant.
David Bricker of the plaintiff’s firm Waters Kraus & Paul led the case, assisted byJonathan A. George and Peter Klausner. According to Mr. Bricker, the defendant’s attempts to deflect blame had little impact on the jury’s verdict.
“The lawyers for John Crane spent considerable time pointing the finger at the Navy, and to other asbestos-containing products to which Mr. Mansir was exposed,” Mr. Bricker said. “What we focused on doing was making it clear to the jury that this was a John Crane issue, not a Navy issue. The Navy had a job to do, and it had to be able to rely upon its contractors and suppliers to provide products that were safe for its sailors.”
During the five-week trial, jurors heard testimony describing the physical pain of the disease, as well as the emotional distress that the Mansirs endure each day.
“Am I going to be here next month, next year? How long do I have? I have a wife. The thing that I worry about, is she going to be taken care of?” Mr. Mansir asked. “We both know one day I’m not going to wake up. But I don’t know when that’s going to be, and when you’re walking around like that, you think about it all the time.” Although Mr. Mansir was diagnosed earlier than many mesothelioma patients and had been responding to chemotherapy, he received some bad news a few days before the trial that made him question whether to go through with the proceedings.
“A new CT scan showed a 1.6-centimeter protrusion in his tumor. His mesothelioma had spread,” explained Waters Kraus & Paul attorney Jonathan George. “In light of this new development, they were reluctant to move forward at first. But on further reflection, they felt they had to continue.”
Mr. Bricker explained that for Mr. Mansir, the decision to proceed to trial against the last remaining defendants came down to two things: the desire to spend the last few months of his life with friends and family, versus his urgent desire to tell his story.
“He served his country honorably for 10 years and knew nothing about dangers of the products he was using. John Crane provided no warnings about the hazards posed by its products and now, 50 years later, Mr. Mansir is dealing with a terminal disease as a direct result of his service,” Bricker said.
After five weeks of testimony and cross-examination with nearly five days of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict that the plaintiffs’ attorneys described as fair.
Now that the trial is over, the couple will continue to consult doctors to determine the best course of therapy for Mr. Mansir’s condition.
“I believe the verdict was cathartic for them,” Mr. George said. “It’s good that they were able to tell their story and help make a difference for future generations of servicemen and women.”
About Waters Kraus & Paul
Waters Kraus & Paul is the West Coast practice of Waters Kraus & Paul, LLP — a nationally recognized plaintiffs’ firm concentrating on complex product liability and personal injury/wrongful death cases. The firm’s diverse practice includes toxic tort litigation (mesothelioma-asbestos), qui tam (whistleblower) cases, and pharmaceutical and medical product liability litigation, among others. With offices in California, Texas, and Maryland, Waters Kraus & Paul, LLP, has litigated cases in jurisdictions across the United States on behalf of individuals from all 50 states, as well as foreign governments.