SAN FRANCISCO — May 27, 1998 — A San Francisco jury awarded $3,203,800 to ten retired workers and one active worker suffering from asbestosis and asbestos–related pleural disease due to their occupational exposures to asbestos.
The defendants were Owens Corning, formerly known as Owens Corning Fiberglass, a Toledo, Ohio, company that formerly manufactured, supplied, sold, and installed asbestos insulation; and Exxon Corporation, the owner of an oil refinery in Benicia, California.
The San Francisco court has a policy of consolidating similar asbestos–related lawsuits for trial in order to reduce court congestion. This trial of forty–nine such cases commenced on November 4, 1997, before San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ollie Marie–Victoire. During the trial, the parties presented both medical and exposure evidence, evidence of the history of medical and scientific knowledge regarding the health hazards of asbestos exposure, and corporate documents relating to Owens Corning's and Exxon Corporation's direct knowledge of asbestos hazards. The diagnosis of an asbestos–related disease was disputed by both defendants.
Each of the plaintiffs had long work histories of asbestos exposure covering many decades:
- Maurice Geerdes was a boilermaker/pipe fitter at various industrial Bay Area job sites from 1966–1986;
- William Slaughterback was a refractory brick mason for J.T. Thorpe & Sons, Inc. of Emeryville, California, who worked at various Bay Area refineries, shipyards and industrial sites from 1963–1993;
- Rudy Rodriguez worked as a longshoreman for the Pacific Maritime Association servicing San Francisco and Oakland piers from 1961–1992;
- Jules Williams has been a laborer working in San Francisco shipyards from 1966–present;
- Carlos Fernandez was a shipyard painter from 1958–1992;
- Kenneth Payne was an ironworker at various industrial Bay Area job sites from 1949–1980;
- Richard Redgrave was a career electrician working in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1946–1993;
- Robert Hazlett was a career insulator working out of Local No. 16, San Francisco, California from 1949–1990;
- Ernest Padilla was employed as a warehouseman and warehouse superintendent at Union Oil Company, Rodeo, California from 1942–1985;
- Joseph Giovinco was a career electrician/wire man in New Mexico and the San Francisco Bay Area from 1948–1993; and Frank Rivera was a career carpenter working out of Union Local No. 483, San Francisco, California from 1946–1977.
The jury found that Owens Corning's asbestos products were defective, that Owens Corning was negligent in its manufacture, supply and sales of such products and that plaintiffs were injured as a result of exposure to Owens Corning products. The jury found that Exxon Corporation was negligent in allowing plaintiff Geerdes to be exposed to asbestos at their Benicia Refinery during original construction and thereafter on maintenance work.