These five trials bring to practitioners a broad range of asbestos litigation issues, including:
- - Vocational and non-vocational exposure
- - High-level and low-level exposure
- - Lung cancer and mesothelioma
- - Pleural mesothelioma and testicular mesothelioma
- - Many different fiber types
Summary of each of the cases:
Kuhnke v. Alfa Laval
The plaintiff, who died of mesothelioma, was a carpenter who spent 33 years working at power plants and switching stations. He was also a steamfitter on Navy ships.
The plaintiff asserted that General Electric was uniquely situated to prevent the plaintiff's death. GE allegedly sold five turbines to the plaintiff's employer, Wisconsin Electric Power Company (WEPCO), to be located at WEPCO's Oak Creek Power Plant, which was where the plaintiff did most of his work. The GE turbines allegedly were insulated with thousands of pounds of asbestos, including an especially potent form of asbestos.
GE also supervised the tear-down and removal of the asbestos insulation. According to the plaintiff, Mr. Kuhnke's exposure to the asbestos contained in the GE turbines was a substantial contributing factor to the plaintiff's mesothelioma.
According to the defense, Mr. Kuhnke had many asbestos exposures other than to General Electric power turbines. GE is the only remaining defendant.
UPDATE: The case settled during closing arguments.
Kuhnke v. Alfa Laval is in progress now. Opening statements were heard February 17, 2010, in Milwaukee County Courthouse.
Rich v. Bingham
The plaintiff-mail carrier's mesothelioma allegedly resulted not from vocational exposure, but from exposure to joint compounds in home improvement products that he allegedly purchased from hardware stores in the 1960's and 1970's to repair a recurring crack in the walls of his home.
According to the plaintiff, sanding the joint compound created fine asbestos dust that got into the plaintiff's lungs, and the defense expert witness could only find a different type of asbestos was involved by violating his own methodology.
Defendants, which include R.T. Vanderbilt, Kaiser Gypsum, and Union Carbide, alleged that the plaintiff's exposure to these products was not sufficient to cause his current cancer, and that some products were not sold at the stores where the plaintiff claims to have bought them. In addition, the types of asbestos found in the plaintiff's lung tissue allegedly did not closely match the fiber types used in the products the plaintiff allegedly used.
The jury returned a defense verdict, finding neither negligence nor the the delivery of a defective product by any of the defendants that was the legal cause of Fred Rich's illness. The case was tried in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, before Judge Patti Henning.
Miller v. AW Chesterton
Testicular mesothelioma jury trial based on occupational asbestos exposure.
The plaintiff was born in 1930. Starting in 1954, he spent 33 years working for the Lindmore Irrigation District maintaining pipes, including replacing concrete pipes with asbestos-cement transite pipes, which mostly were manufactured by Johns-Mansville in Stockton, and mostly relied upon chrysotile asbestos from Advocate Mines and Calaveras Asbestos.
He was diagnosed in February, 2009, as terminally ill from malignant mesothelioma in the tunica vaginalis testes, which had spread to a lymph node.
According to Advocate Mines, tunica vaginalis testes mesothelioma is a classic idiopathic ailment. With only 100 cases in the world, there is not enough epidemiological evidence to establish that asbestos causes it. In addition, the defense asserted that chysotile fibers were the least harmful type of asbestos fiber, and did not cause the plaintiff's disease.
According to Calaveras, its products came with warnings. Further, Calaveras claimed that its products were not dangerous unless used in such a way as to create dust, and it could not monitor how the product was eventually used.
The case was tried in Los Angeles, California, before Judge Terry Green. The parties settled while the jury was deliberating.
Roth v. Goodrich
Plaintiff's lung was removed due to lung cancer (not mesothelioma). Plaintiff allegedly was exposed to asbestos as a teenager in the late 1950's while working in the auto repair business at a Shell service station, and while maintaining his own 1937 Ford.
Defendants -- Dana, Ford, Honeywell, Pep Boys, and Pneumo Abex -- made and/or sold automotive products (e.g., gaskets, clutches, brakes) containing asbestos, which allegedly were not tested for safety and were not accompanied by any safety warnings.
Defendants alleged that the plaintiff's lung cancer was actually caused by second-hand smoke.
The case settled approximately one week into the trial.
Thacker v. 3M
Asbestos liability jury trial in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Plaintiff Robert Thacker contracted pleural mesothelioma from asbestos exposure in the 1970s, when he worked as a pipe fitter. The plaintiff died after the cancer spread to his spine and brain.
The remaining defendant was Weil-McLain, which manufactured boilers that contained asbestos. Weil-McLain argued that the plaintiff never worked around a Weil-McLain boiler. Instead, according to the defendant, the plaintiff worked only around larger industrial boilers made by a different manufacturer.
The case settled during the second day of trial.