Gordon & Rees Oakland partner Jim Scadden defended the first ever jury trial involving allegations of exposure to asbestos dust from the operation of an arc grinding machine used to prepare new asbestos containing drum brake linings for installation. The result in this wrongful death case involving an alleged diagnosis of desmoplastic mesothelioma was a plaintiffs’ verdict for less than $600,000, with a net verdict to Gordon & Rees's client likely to be less than $200,000.
Plaintiffs claimed that the decedent spent almost three decades working in auto parts stores in which he used Ammco brand arc grinding machines to prepare new brake linings. Decedent died at age 77, leaving his widow and two adult sons to pursue the wrongful death action in the Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles, Chatsworth branch. Plaintiffs claimed that the grinders in question were defectively designed, failed to incorporate necessary warnings and should have been recalled or retrofitted. Ammco responded that it had acted reasonably at all times, had investigated potential asbestos hazards as soon as OSHA enacted asbestos regulations, had applied appropriate warnings and had modified the design of the equipment to reduce exposures.
The trial proceeded for one month and resulted in a plaintiff verdict but with the very modest numbers reported above. Indeed, research suggests this may be the lowest ever gross verdict in a mesothelioma case tried in California.