Courtroom, Gavel And Law Books

$107 Million Verdict Awarded in Mesothelioma Case Against Raw Asbestos Supplier

Jurisdiction: Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles

A California jury on July 7 and July 11 handed down major verdicts with awards totaling more than $100 million in a case involving the death of maintenance employee from mesothelioma caused by his alleged exposure to asbestos.

Comprised of $32 million in compensatory damages, and $75 million in punitive damages, the awards came at the conclusion of a two-phase trial before Judge Cary Nishimoto in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The jury apportioned liability as follows: 46.4 percent to Union Carbide, finding the company acted with malice; 10 percent to E.F. Brady Co. Inc., 5 percent to Elementis Chemicals, and several small portions to other companies.

According to the complaint, Joel Hernandezcueva died from pleural mesothelioma on April 5, 2014 at 46 years old. The decedent worked, from approximately 1992 through 1995, as a janitor and maintenance person at the Fluor facility known as Park Place, a mixed-use development located in Irvine, Calif.

During his first six months at Park Place, he provided janitorial and maintenance services as an employee of an independent contractor. From 1993 through 1995, he worked for Fluor Maintenance Services.

Park Place was built in the early and mid-1970s, and its original walls were constructed using asbestos-containing joint compound. The decedent was allegedly exposed to asbestos while performing routine maintenance and clean-up during tenant improvement and renovation work that involved the removal and demolition of original walls. The plaintiffs alleged that Union Carbide, “a miner and miller of raw asbestos fiber, was the exclusive supplier of the asbestos fiber in the Hamilton joint compound that defendant E.F. Brady Company, Inc. applied to every wall at Park Place.”

Union Carbide twice moved for a mistrial on the grounds that the plaintiffs’ counsel made improper statements during closing arguments, and that liability and punitive damages were not determined by the same jury as required under California Civil Code § 3295(d) because an alternate juror was substituted. Both motions were denied.

Read the Law360 article here. [subscription required]

Read the complaint here.