Toxic tort cases involving dangerous exposure from decades earlier can be rife with problems linking the allegedly toxic product to your client's disease. In some cases, you'll have to ask jurors to infer connections based on limited documentary evidence and no "smoking gun" proof. James Ferraro was faced with a similar situation in a mesothelioma suit against Georgia Pacific, but, in a closing that connected the dots from wallboard to his client's cancer, won an eight-figure verdict.
Ferraro's client, Roy Taylor, developed mesothelioma decades after working as a painting supervisor on a 1970s-era building development project in Saudi Arabia. Taylor sued Georgia Pacific, makers of the wallboard and joint compound allegedly used on the project, claiming asbestos in the compound caused his cancer.
While shipping records showed massive amounts of wallboard were sent to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia during the project's time frame, only one invoice for 720 buckets of joint compound shipped to the area was produced. That invoice was potentially insufficient by itself to connect Georgia Pacific's product to Taylor's mesothelioma.
During his closing argument, Ferraro detailed how the company's wallboard and joint compound were "intertwined," walking jurors through a 1970s-era Georgia Pacific sales brochure that showed joint compound was required for the company's wallboard. "Who buys wallboard from Georgia Pacific and doesn't buy their joint compound? Come on, think about it, who does that?" Ferraro asked. "It's sold as a system."
While Ferraro implored the jury to use its common sense as to the amount of Georgia Pacific joint compound likely used on the project, he also raised a note of suspicion at the reason behind the difference in invoices. The invoices, Ferraro explained, showed "big shipments... of wallboard, which is cute because the wallboard doesn't have asbestos in it, it's the joint compound that does. So you've got tons and tons and tons this wallboard going to Jeddah, but only 720 buckets of joint compound. They must've had a really, really bad salesman on that one."
Ferraro's closing helped jurors make the logical leap from Georgia Pacific's documented construction materials to Taylor's mesothelioma, and it set up a $17 million verdict against the company.
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