On December 16, 2014, Gordon & Rees Oakland partner Deborah Smith and senior counsel Richard Ames won a defense verdict in Alameda County Superior Court on behalf of their client, Buttes Pipe & Supply Company (Buttes Pipe), in a suit brought by the family of a deceased plumber after an eight week trial.
Buttes Pipe was a regional plumbing supplier who was alleged to have supplied asbestos cement pipe to the decedent’s employer between 1978 and 1986. The plaintiffs, the decedent’s three children, alleged the decedent passed away from lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos from cutting asbestos cement pipe supplied by Buttes Pipe. The plaintiffs claimed products liability, negligence and failure to warn against Buttes Pipe.
The cause of the decedent’s lung cancer was disputed as was Buttes Pipe’s liability. The defense showed that the decedent’s employer knew about the health risks of improper handling of asbestos cement pipe and had implemented a policy for the safe handling of the pipe prior to the decedent’s employment. The defense also put on evidence that the decedent’s lung cancer was caused by his exposure to tobacco smoke. Although the jury found the decedent’s lung cancer was likely caused, at least in part, from exposure to asbestos, they found the decedent was not exposed to respirable asbestos fibers from a product supplied by Buttes Pipe. At trial the plaintiffs sought over $3.5 million dollars in compensatory damages. At the conclusion of the evidence, Buttes Pipe was granted a nonsuit on the plaintiffs’ claim for punitive damages.