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WK Delivers a Succession of Plaintiffs’ Verdicts in Asbestos Cases Over Last Year

From Coast to Coast, Plaintiffs’ Law Firm Broadens Its Reputation in Asbestos Mesothelioma Cases

DALLAS – November 7, 2008 – Waters & Kraus, LLP, one of the nation’s premier plaintiffs’ product liability firms, has posted a succession of notable plaintiffs’ victories over the years, but particularly in the last 12 months. These courtroom successes are remarkable both for the defendants who were challenged, as well as the jurisdictional, occupational and/or circumstantial diversity of the plaintiffs who prevailed.

“The last year has been monumental for our clients in the courtroom,” stated Peter Kraus, co-founder of the firm. “From a $35 million verdict and unilateral decision for our client in a bifurcated trial in Philadelphia – which is one of the toughest jurisdictions in the country to try a toxic tort – to a verdict for a craft services worker in LA, we have been able to bring a measure of justice to many of our mesothelioma clients and their families.”

Asbestos exposure has long been linked to mesothelioma, a deadly form cancer that usually lies dormant for decades after exposure. Research linking asbestos exposure and mesothelioma dates to the 1940s, yet many corporations knowingly failed to warn about the dangers of their products. There is no cure for the insidious disease, and treatment is palliative at best. Diagnosis is typically made after a brief period of symptoms, and life expectancy is generally counted in months.

“It’s a privilege to represent victims of asbestos exposure, and so fulfilling to attain a verdict in their favor,” said Gary Paul, WK partner and a highly regarded LA attorney who was also recently named 2008 “Trial Lawyer of the Year” by the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA). Mr. Paul was the lead trial attorney for several of WK’s 2008 asbestos cases that alone resulted in more than $50 million in plaintiffs’ verdicts.

Noted Andy Waters, WK co-founder, “A favorable judgment will not restore health or extend life expectancy, but it can bring comfort and closure to the families who witness and endure so much suffering – suffering they could have been spared but for the blatant greediness of large corporate interests who put profits above all else. We stand up for the ‘little guy’ in the face of overwhelming hardship and against extremely well-funded defendants. And we’re pleased to say that 2008 has been a landmark year for the ‘little guy.’

Among Waters & Kraus’ most notable 2008 verdicts and rulings for asbestos-mesothelioma plaintiffs:

Davis, et. al. v. American Standard, et. al. (Los Angeles, Cause No. BC367464). An LA County jury awarded Jack Davis $35.1 million in damages exposure to asbestos-coated gaskets and parts during a tenure as a U.S. Navy boiler tender and fireman, and later as a pipefitter. The jury rejected defense arguments that the Navy was solely responsible for Mr. Davis’s mesothelioma, which was diagnosed in January 2007, and that the 74-year-old plaintiff was near the end of average life expectancy and didn’t deserve a large monetary award. Plaintiff’s verdict was handed down in October 2007. The case was rated a Top 25 Verdict by American Trial Lawyer’s annual review of consumer and individual plaintiffs’ verdicts from across the nation.

Rollin et. a. v. American Standard, et. al. (Los Angeles, Cause No. BC372275). Set preferentially for trial just 4 months after filing this bystander asbestos resulted in a $9.994 million plaintiff’s verdict for Eugene Rollin. Mr. Rollin worked as a stillman and rigger at Mobil Oil’s Torrance, California, refinery for 25 years. Although he did not directly handle asbestos-containing parts, the jury agreed that his close proximity to these components over a career was sufficient to cause his deadly mesothelioma. The jury also rejected defense argument that Mobil Oil was responsible because it did not warn of asbestos hazards until well past 1972, when it became an OSHA requirement. The verdict was rendered in March 2008.

Bacuss v. Bondex International, et al. (Philadelphia, Case No. 001063). In this reverse bifurcated trial and one of Philadelphia’s largest-ever asbestos awards, the family of James Baccus received a judgment of $25.2 million, including $18.3 million for gross negligence against Crane Company and Yarway. Mr. Baccus, a Navy machinist mate in the 1950s, who was later employed by American Synthetic Rubber Company in Kentucky, died in July 2007, six months after his mesothelioma diagnosis. The jury rejected defense arguments that the type of asbestos (chrysotile) contained in their products did not cause cancer. The verdict came in March 2008.

Brewer v. Alfa Laval, Inc., et. al. (Los Angeles, Cause No. BC374988). In one of few Navy-only asbestos exposure cases taken to verdict, a jury awarded Chief Y.R. Brewer and his wife $9.7 million in damages, despite the defense’s vigorous arguments that the U.S. Navy, as a “sophisticated user” of equipment containing asbestos bore sole responsibility for warning and protecting its sailors from asbestos hazards. Mr. Brewer served as a Navy machinist mate aboard the USS Preble during a 41-month period in the early 1960s. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in June 2007. The verdict was rendered in May 2008.

Saffold v. Bondex, et. al. (Los Angeles, Cause No. BC341492) This plaintiff’s verdict in a bystander asbestos exposure case involved Ronald Saffold, a craft services worker at Warner Bros., where for 12 years he cleaned up after crews who built or tore down sets. Diagnosed with mesothelioma just 3 months short of retirement, he died in December 2005. The jury handed down a $5.4 million verdict, in relatively high liability percentages for each defendant, thereby rejecting defense arguments that Mr. Saffold was exposed to chrysotile asbestos in amounts too small to have caused his illness. Defendants also claimed that other products identified by Mr. Saffold were actually responsible for his cancer, but failed to show fault. The verdict came in June 2008.

Behshid v. Bondex, et. al. (California, Cause No. BC194789). An appellate court upheld and the California Supreme Court denied review of the 2006 verdict that awarded $12.6 million in compensatory damages to Saeed Behshid. In rendering its decision, the court rejected defense efforts to apply a frequency, regularity and proximity standard to the plaintiff’s claims that Bondex’s asbestos-containing joint compound caused his mesothelioma. Mr. Behshid worked with the joint compound while remodeling 12-15 homes that he owned during the mid-1960s and late 1970s. The appellate court handed down its ruling in July 2008. 

Shahabi v. A.W. Chesterton, et. al. (Los Angeles, Cause No. BC379085). A jury awarded $14.876 million in damages to Amanollah Shahabi, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in June 2007 after a 44-year career as a refinery engineer in his native Iran and, for a short time in the U.S. In assessing liability, the jury held Fluor Corporation and affiliated companies – the American petrochemical contractor hired by the National Iranian Oil Company – primarily responsible for Mr. Shahabi’s illness. The verdict was handed down in August 2008.

Yager et. al. v. John Crane, Inc. (San Francisco, Cause No. CGC 05-440678). Long-time Navy machinist mate Roy Yager worked with asbestos-containing gaskets and packing throughout his career, including a 4-year tour aboard the USS Springfield. Defense expert Cmdr. James Delaney testified that a small amount – 50 and 300 pounds – of these materials were present on the Springfield. The expert was impeached by the plaintiff’s trial team, who uncovered a Navy document indicating that the actual volume was 16 tons. The jury awarded $3.94 million to the family of Mr. Yager, who died of mesothelioma in April 2004. The verdict was rendered in August 2008.

Janes et. al. v. A.W. Chesterton Co., et. al., (California, Cause No. CGC 04-434604); Galassi et. al. v. A.W. Chesterton Co., et. al., (California, Cause No. CGC 04-4346144). In these two Navy asbestos exposure cases, the court denied summary judgment to equipment defendants claiming that the Navy’s sophistication and knowledge of asbestos hazards eliminated the defendant’s duties to warn about the dangerous condition of their products. Not only did the defense fail to introduce any evidence of what the defendant manufacturers knew about the level of sophistication of the Navy, it also did not proffer evidence regarding the reliability of the Navy as an intermediary to pass warnings on to end users like Mr. Galassi and Mr. Janes. The ruling, handed down in September 2008, represents the first ruling of the San Francisco trial courts on summary judgment on the sophisticated user doctrine in Navy asbestos exposure litigation. The Defendants’ petitions for review to the California Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court were both denied.  

For additional information about these and other notable Waters & Kraus cases, visit www.waterskraus.com ‘ News & Views.’

About Waters & Kraus, LLP

Waters & Kraus, LLP, is a plaintiffs’ firm concentrating on complex product liability and personal injury/wrongful death cases. The firm’s diverse practice includes toxic tort (mesothelioma) litigation, pharmaceutical product liability, negligence, and consumer product liability, as well as qui tam (whistle-blower) and commercial litigation. With offices in Texas, California, 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.

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