The California law firm of Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood & Harley, A Professional Law Corporation
, has secured a major victory for victims of asbestos exposure in the case of Bankhead v. ArvinMeritor, Inc
., __ Cal. Rptr. 3d __ (Cal. App. 2012). The California Court of Appeals held in a mesothelioma case that the amount of punitive damages awards in California must be considered in light of the totality of a corporation's economic condition, rather than tied arbitrarily to a defendant's net worth, which may not present a true picture of the company's ability to pay damages to those injured by its reprehensible conduct. In a thoughtful decision authored by Justice Rivera of the court's First District, the court also held that an award of punitive damages that is 2.4 times the size of a compensatory award was not so large that it violated the defendant brake manufacturer's constitutional rights.
A significant victory for Mr. Bankhead's family, the case is also important for all Californians. Punitive damages play an important role in our civil justice system. The threat of being forced to pay punitive damages discourages corporations from placing dangerous products into the marketplace without regard for the safety of those who will use or be injured by them.
The plaintiff in the case was Gordon Bankhead, who at the age of 66 developed mesothelioma after 30 years of servicing and repairing heavy duty vehicles as a “parts man.” As part of this work, Mr. Bankhead was exposed to the to the asbestos brake linings used by ArvinMeritor in brake shoes the company made for commercial trucks. Mesothelioma is a fatal cancer caused by even brief exposures to asbestos.
The evidence at trial showed that the manufacturer knew asbestos was dangerous during the entire time that Mr. Bankhead was exposed to the company's dangerous products. Even so, the company dragged its heels in warning of the hazard and waited for decades to pull its products from the market until it sold off the back-stock of its asbestos containing brake shoes.
The California Court of Appeals' decision ensures that when a manufacturer acts reprehensibly in trading the safety of California consumers for the company's own profit, it will not be able to escape the consequences by reliance on creative accounting. In reviewing the financial profile of the manufacturer of a defective product, the jury and the courts may consider all the evidence relevant to the corporation's financial condition, not just an isolated, and possibly manipulated, calculation of the company's net worth.
The plaintiffs were represented on appeal by Jim Oberman
, Gloria Amell
and Michael Stewart
with the Kazan law firm. Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood & Harley, A Professional Law Corporation, includes many lawyers who are pioneers in asbestos litigation. The firm has successfully represented hundreds of victims of mesothelioma in a nationwide practice.
The plaintiffs' outstanding trial team included Joseph Satterley
with the Kentucky firm of Sales & Satterley
, well known in Kentucky and across the country as a mesothelioma law firm with more than 30 years experience in asbestos litigation. In addition, the Bankheads were represented by Kazan Firm attorney Justin Bosl
Kudos to everyone involved at Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood & Harley, A Professional Law Corporation, and to Mr. Satterley for this important victory! Misty Farris
, Laurie Meggesin
and Janice Pennington
are three practicing appellate lawyers who had absolutely nothing to do with the Bankhead
case. We do, however, enjoy helping consumer and trial lawyers with Web content and marketing projects, like press releases
or a law blog
. We know the law, we know the business and we know the clients. We could easily be writing a press release for you to inform your clients and referring counsel of your latest successes. Give us a call at 214 586 0040 or complete our Contact
The Buck Law Firm
in Atlanta and DiMuzio Law Firm
in Houston have announced a major appellate victory in the Georgia Court of Appeals. In Union Carbide Corp. v. Fields
, __ S.E.2d __, 2012 WL 917601 (2012), the court held in a peritoneal mesothelioma case that settled nonparties are not to be automatically included on the verdict form for apportionment of fault under OCGA § 51–12–33(d)(1). Unless asbestos defendants can actually prove that settled nonparties are at fault in causing the plaintiff's injuries, the entities are not to be considered in any apportionment of fault. In addition, the court fired a gaping hole through asbestos defendants' chrysotile defense, ruling that where a mesothelioma plaintiff introduces expert testimony that the plaintiff's combined exposure to chrysotile and amphibole asbestos could have contributed to cause the injury, the issue of causation is to be left for the jury.
A critical victory for Mr. and Mrs. Fields, plaintiffs in the Georgia case, the decision is also instructive for courts in other states that are constantly barraged with similar dubious arguments by asbestos corporations struggling to escape their own liability by any possible means. Mesothelioma is a horrific, incurable cancer that is recognized by scientists throughout the world to be caused by exposure to all types of asbestos, and virtually nothing else.
That the plaintiff, Rhonda Fields, developed the disease in the first place is telling evidence of the sinister hazard of even relatively small exposures to asbestos. Mrs. Fields never worked with asbestos herself; she was exposed to the substance as a child when it was used in the construction of her family home and when it was brought into the house on the clothing of others who had worked with or around it. Mrs. Fields and her husband filed suit against the manufacturers of those asbestos products after Mrs. Fields was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, an uncommon form of an already rare cancer, which attacks the lining of the walls of the abdominal cavity.
This important decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals helps to ensure that asbestos corporations – whose products have injured and killed millions of people worldwide – will be held accountable.
The Fields plaintiffs are represented by Robert Cape Buck
of the Buck Law Firm in Atlanta and Gary DiMuzio
of the DiMuzio Law Firm in Houston. Both men are extremely dedicated and talented mesothelioma lawyers who have successfully represented plaintiffs in asbestos litigation for decades. Kudos to Mr. Buck and Mr. DiMuzio for another important triumph!
Many law firms would hesitate at the outset to take a personal injury case on behalf of an undocumented Honduran worker, no matter its merit. Many other firms would not have the financial ability to handle that negligence case through nine long years of legal battles. Noteboom – The Law Firm did both. It took nearly a decade, but in February of 2012, Isabel Cristina Molina finally received a seven figure judgment in the lawsuit first filed on her behalf back in 2003.
Over the last ten years, Molina and her lawyers at Noteboom have struggled together. Molina first came to Dallas with her young children to escape the brutal beatings of her husband in Honduras. Twenty-seven years old, Molina took a job as a short order cook in a food truck. After a long shift one day in 2002, Molina was cleaning the truck kitchen when suddenly, she and everything around her were ablaze. Molina escaped from the rear of the truck with burns covering more than 50 percent of her body.
When Molina first met with the lawyers at Noteboom, she had spent two months in a coma. She struggled three months more in the hospital recovering and has endured dozens of surgeries. Several of her fingers are just knobs now and even ten years after the accident, she still needs more surgery to repair her scarred skin.
In 2003, Molina's team at Noteboom filed a personal injury negligence suit against the truck operator. Based on the dedicated work of Noteboom's investigators and staff, the lawyers were able to prove that the truck operator was responsible for the dreadful working conditions that ultimately led to Molina's injuries.
One of the operator's employees had cleaned grease from the truck's floor with gasoline, which ignited from a pilot light on the stove. In 2007, a Dallas jury found the truck operator liable and returned a sizable award in Molina's favor.
But four years into the lawsuit, Molina's lawyers at Noteboom were barely midway through their struggles on their client's behalf. The case was appealed more than once. The truck operator complained that he was not responsible. And the truck operator's insurance company tried to avoid paying for Molina's damages. Finally, on February 2, 2012, a Dallas court entered judgment for Molina in the amount of $2.5 million and the case was resolved.
Molina's religious faith helped to keep her strong throughout the long legal battle, according to Mark Sudderth, one of Molina's lawyers at the Noteboom law firm in Hurst. “[Molina] had horrific injuries, and she never gave up, and in the end, justice was served.”
The Dallas Morning News
reports that Molina, now a day care worker in Virginia, is proud if her case can serve as an inspiration to other undocumented workers: “Immigrants need to stand up for themselves,” she said. “We’re going to hear negativity. They’re going to tell us ‘no.’ But we have to fight for our rights and respect.” Mark Sudderth
and Chuck Noteboom
are proud to work with immigrants like Isabel Cristina Molina. Noteboom – The Law Firm
, located in Hurst, Texas, handles personal injury, accident, wrongful death and sexual abuse cases in Texas state and federal courts. Kudos to Chuck Noteboom and Mark Sudderth on their important victory!
Dallas trial lawyer Charla Aldous has reached a settlement with the Episcopal School of Dallas on behalf of the family of a 16-year-old girl forced to withdraw from the school after its appalling failure to protect the student in the first place from the sexual advances of one of her teachers. The amount of the settlement is confidential, but the 2011 verdict was $9.3 million, including $8.6 million in compensatory damages and an additional $700,000 in punitive damages.
For ESD, the school finally moves one step closer to an end of the publicity it contrived to avoid when it presented the girl's father with a Hobson's choice for his daughter: withdrawal or expulsion from the upscale college prep school. According to the Dallas Morning News
, Ms. Aldous expressed her happiness for the family that they can now “put this whole ordeal behind them.”
The 16-year-old's abuse by her 34-year-old history teacher came to light when a policeman discovered the two in a parked car in November of 2009. During the nine-week trial, the all-woman jury heard testimony that the teacher began his advances while tutoring the student after she fell behind in her studies for his class. ESD allowed the then-married teacher to resign.
At the start, school officials acknowledged that the student would not be held responsible and promised to respect her privacy. ESD had, after all, neglected to complete appropriate background checks on the teacher or to properly monitor his use of a school credit card and cell phone, either of which would have signaled the teacher's misconduct. After a few weeks, however, the Head of the Upper School and Chief Academic Officer attempted to distance the school from its own responsibility by removing the victim. The student was forced to withdraw or to apply for college with an expulsion on her permanent high school record.
The verdict and settlement send a sobering message to institutions everywhere that are entrusted with students' safety from sexual predators. School officials cannot escape moral or legal responsibility by turning a blind eye to criminal sexual abuse. Neither can they contain publicity concerning sexual abuse with attempts to silence, disgrace or discriminate against the students who are the victims of such crimes.
Charla Aldous heads the Aldous Law Firm
in Dallas, Texas. The firm represents clients in personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice and products liability lawsuits. Kudos to Ms. Aldous for this important victory!
Troy Chandler with the Houston firm of Williams Kherkher has won a $20 million verdict on behalf of a rape victim in a lawsuit filed under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act against the victim's apartment complex. The jury heard testimony that the owners of the West Houston apartment complex in which the victim lived, Promenade Cullen Park Apartments, knew about the sexual predator who raped the plaintiff, but hid the danger from complex residents.
The facts of the case are agonizing. In 2009, a man broke into the victim's apartment, drugged her, taped her eyes and mouth with duct tape, then raped and sodomized her for over ten hours. At trial, the jury learned that the apartment complex management knew that a break-in and attempted rape had taken place just two weeks earlier in the apartment right next door to the victim's. Before that, the same man attempted to rape a 14-year-old girl in the complex.
Nevertheless the complex did nothing to warn apartment residents about the sexual predator living in their midst. Instead, apartment management sent out a routine-sounding notice to residents about a break-in, keeping silent about the more dangerous risks for female tenants. This was despite a warning from a Houston Police Department detective that the predator could be a serial offender and that tenants should be warned. But unaware of the danger, the victim renewed her lease with the complex, something she testified she never would have done had she been warned of the risks.
The victim's lawyer, Troy Chandler, expressed his hope that the case would serve both to compensate his client for her injuries and to help change the way leasing agents, who receive a commission when tenants renew their leases, do business: “. . . [W]e hope that this would change the way people do business so tenants are safer.”
In this negligent security case, the plaintiff's complaint alleged: “Despite defendant PCM's knowledge that an extreme risk of danger existed for its female residents, (especially those living in a second story unit with a balcony), it failed to warn them of the potential harm they faced. Instead, it created an even greater risk by deceiving the tenants and obfuscating the actual events that had occurred.”
Under Texas law, an apartment complex is not required to warn tenants of sexual crimes in the complex, but if it does undertake to warn its residents, it must give an adequate warning. And under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, a defendant that omits to disclose material information for the purpose of inducing a consumer into a contract she would not otherwise have made may also be found liable.
In this case, that DTPA liability amounted to around $8million, which when added to $7 million for past physical pain and mental anguish, and $5 million for future suffering, came to $20 million. Troy Chandler
, attorney with Williams Kherkher
in Houston, represents plaintiffs in mesothelioma and personal injury litigation. Kudos to Mr. Chandler for this important victory!
and Fox Houston
The Philadelphia law firm of Howard, Brenner and Nass, P.C. has announced a major victory for the victims of asbestos exposure in the case of Daley v. A.W. Chesterton, Inc., No. J-98-2010 (Pa. February 21, 2012)
. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that a worker suffering from mesothelioma was not barred by the Pennsylvania statute of limitations from bringing a lawsuit, even though the mesothelioma was allegedly caused by the same asbestos exposure that had caused the worker's asbestosis and lung cancer more than ten years earlier. In a 25-page opinion authored by Madame Justice Todd, the court held that in Pennsylvania, an asbestos victim may file an action for asbestos related cancer, even if he had filed an earlier action for a different asbestos-related cancer, so long as the latter action: is brought for a separate disease that was unknown to the plaintiff when the first suit was filed; and, is timely filed by the date provided in the governing statute of limitations.
A significant victory for these plaintiffs, the case is also important for all those exposed to asbestos who are unfortunate enough to suffer not just one malignant injury but a subsequent diagnosis of mesothelioma, as well. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is a painful, invariably fatal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, even in small amounts.
The plaintiff in the case is Herbert Daley, a worker who was diagnosed with pulmonary asbestosis and squamous-cell carcinoma of the lung in 1989. Both diseases were caused by Mr. Daley's workplace exposure to asbestos. Mr. Daley filed suit for his injuries in 1990, and in 1994, the lawsuit was settled. Mr. Daley survived his battle with lung cancer only to learn over a decade later in 2005 that he had developed a separate and more serious cancer, mesothelioma, as a result of the identical asbestos exposure. He filed suit later that year against manufacturers that were not sued in the previous case, but they convinced the trial court to dismiss the case on statute of limitations grounds.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision, which affirmed the Superior Court's reversal of the trial court, makes clear that in Pennsylvania, a corporation whose negligent conduct causes a worker to suffer multiple, distinct and successive injuries will be held to account. Edward M. Nass
, the attorney with Howard, Brenner and Nass, P.C. who announced the victory, has represented plaintiffs in asbestos litigation for thirty years. Mr. Nass has achieved multi-million dollar jury verdicts for many asbestos victims from across the nation. Kudos to Mr. Nass for another important victory!