Money-wrapped by gavel

Asbestos Year in Review: Punitive Damages in Asbestos Litigation

In asbestos litigation, it is common for plaintiffs to demand punitive damages, alleging that the conduct of some or all of the defendants was so egregious that the defendants must pay exemplary damages. Unlike compensatory damages, the purpose of punitive damages is not to compensate the plaintiff but rather to punish a defendant for reckless and wanton acts and to discourage the defendant and others from acting in a similar way in the future.

While compensatory damages are rooted in actual expenses, the value of …

Continue Reading
Money-wrapped by gavel

Finding of Limited Exposure Entitles Defendant to Dismissal of Punitive Damages

Supreme Court of New York, New York County, January 12, 2022

The defendant Graybar Electric Company filed a motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages ought to be dismissed citing that punitive damages are inappropriate because the plaintiff only encountered Graybar’s product once during his career. The plaintiff’s opposition argued that issues of fact remain regarding the plaintiff’s exposure to asbestos-containing cement pipe that was sold and distributed by Graybar. The plaintiff contended that Graybar merely pointed to gaps …

Continue Reading

Plaintiff’s Punitive Damages Claim Withstands Summary Judgment Against Brake Manufacturer

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, May 10, 2021

In this asbestos action, Mr. Toy (the plaintiff) alleged that he worked with asbestos-containing brakes manufactured by Bendix in the 1950s and 1970s. Defendant Honeywell as successor-in-interest to Bendix moved for summary judgment on several grounds. The plaintiff only opposed the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the punitive damages claim.

Under California Civil Code § 3294(a), “a plaintiff may recover punitive damages “where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that …

Continue Reading

Partial Summary Judgment Denied to Shipbuilding Company and Auto Parts Retailer

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, March 30, 2021

Before the court are motions for summary judgment filed by defendant National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) and Pep Boys-Manny, Moe & Jack of California.

Defendant NASSCO moves for summary judgment on the theory that, as a government contractor, it enjoys derivative immunity from asbestos- related liability. In the alternative, should material facts regarding its overhaul of the USS Bristol County remain in dispute, NASSCO moves for partial summary judgment as to the plaintiffs’ premises …

Continue Reading

$25.5 Million Punitive Damages Award Reversed; New Trial Ordered on Apportionment of Fault in Automobile Brake Case

Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Two, March 25, 2021

In this asbestos action, plaintiff Arthur Putt replaced brake pads manufactured and supplied by several different entities in connection with cars manufactured by three different companies in two California gas stations from 1966 until 1970. The plaintiff was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2018 and testified that 40 percent of his brake work involved Ford vehicles, and 40 percent of his total work with Ford vehicles involved removing the factory-installed brake pads. The …

Continue Reading

Punitive Damages Award Eliminated on Appeal in Take-Home Exposure Case

Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Three, November 19, 2020

The plaintiff, Alfred Mata, alleged he developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure. Alfred’s father, Francisco, worked as a serviceman for Park Water from 1970 until 1989. Francisco’s responsibility of cutting water pipes with a power saw caused visible dust to settle on his clothing, which he took home to his son. Park Water used both asbestos-containing cement pipes and non-asbestos pipes. The asbestos pipes contained both chrysotile and crocidolite asbestos. …

Continue Reading

New Trial on Damages Directed in Talc Case Unless Plaintiffs Stipulate to Verdict Reduction

Supreme Court of New York, New York County

In June 2019, we reported on the jury verdict in the Olson matter. Following the verdict, Defendants Johnson & Johnson and Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc. (J&J) moved to set aside the verdict and award under CPLR 4404(a). In the alternative, J&J moved for a new trial on liability and damages.

The court rejected J&J challenges to the award of compensatory damages as the jury’s verdict as to liability was supported by legally sufficient evidence. The jury …

Continue Reading

Punitive Damage Claim Can Go Forward Against Shipyard

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, August 26, 2020

The plaintiffs allege that Callen L. Dempster (decedent) was exposed to asbestos while working at Avondale Shipyard from 1984 to 1996. In their Supplemental and Amending Petition for Damages, the plaintiffs asserted a claim for punitive damages, specifically stating that “Callen Dempster was exposed to asbestos during the years of 1984 through 1996. His injuries were caused by defendants’ wanton and reckless disregard for public safety in the storage, handling, and transportation of asbestos …

Continue Reading

New York City Asbestos Litigation Verdict Against Johnson & Johnson Includes $300 Million Punitive Damages Award

NEW YORK – Johnson & Johnson (J&J) was hit with a $300 million punitive damages award on May 31, 2019, after a jury found the company responsible for a woman’s development of mesothelioma after decades of use of J&J talc bath products. In Donna A. Olson v. Brenntag North America Inc., et al., the jury awarded the plaintiff, Donna Olson, and her husband, Robert Olson, with $25 million in compensatory damages, which brought the total verdict to $325 million. The lawsuit claimed …

Continue Reading

Denial of Texas County’s Jurisdictional Challenges Upheld on Appeal

TEXAS — In a case involving the mesothelioma death of a longtime jurist in Jefferson County, Texas attributed in part to asbestos remediation at the courthouse, a Texas Appellate Court affirmed the order of the trial court on all issues against defendant/appellant Jefferson County with the exception of the applicability of claims for exemplary damages, which were dismissed. Jefferson County filed an interlocutory appeal based on the trial court’s denial of its jurisdictional challenges. We have previously reported on the Appellate Court’s handling of the …

Continue Reading