Wrongful Death of Asbestos Workers

Five San Francisco Mesothelioma Victims Awarded $3.8 Million

SAN FRANCISCO — April 21, 1998 — A San Francisco jury awarded $3,815,100 in five cases to the families of five workers who died of mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure. The award included punitive damages assessed against one of the defendants, Asbestos Corporation Limited.

The plaintiffs were the heirs of Ronald Thompson (deceased), of Topanga, California; Frank Avila (deceased), of Richmond, California; William Meredith (deceased), of Pleasanton, California; Deloy McArthur (deceased), of Escondido, California; and Jack Frost, (deceased), of Augora Hills, California.

The defendants were Owens Corning, formerly known as Owens Corning Fiberglas, which was sued as the successor–in–interest to Marine Engineering & Supply Company, a distributor and installer of asbestos–containing products; and Asbestos Corporation Limited, a Canadian mining company that sold processed asbestos fiber to manufacturers in the United States for use in high–temperature insulation products.

The San Francisco Superior Court has a policy of consolidating similar asbestos–related lawsuits for trial in order to reduce court congestion. This trial of wrongful death cases, each involving the disease mesothelioma, started on November 10, 1997, before San Francisco Superior Court Judge A. James Robertson, II. A jury was empanelled to hear the cases and told that the trial would last up to five months. 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 company knowledge of asbestos hazards.

Each of the decedents had work histories involving substantial occupational exposure to asbestos:

  • Ronald Thompson was a residential and commercial plumber at various schools and commercial sites in the Los Angeles area from 1945 to 1972. He regularly installed asbestos–containing material on steam lines and hot water pipes.
  • Frank Avila was a marine machinist from 1941 through 1970. He spent most of his career working in the engine rooms of ships at Bethlehem Steel Shipyard in San Francisco.
  • William Meredith spent the years 1938 through 1942 as a factory worker in a linoleum plant for Fibreboard Corporation, a company that manufactured asbestos–containing insulation products in Emeryville, California.
  • Deloy McArthur owned his own equipment rental business at the time of his death, but had been exposed to asbestos while working as a welder at Todd Shipyard in San Pedro, California during World War II.
  • Jack Frost worked as an iron worker and welder in refinery and high–rise construction from 1945 to 1989.

The jury found that Asbestos Corporation Limited's asbestos products were defective and that Asbestos Corporation Limited was negligent in its manufacture and sale of such products. The jury also found that Asbestos Corporation Limited committed malice and oppression in connection with its sale of asbestos fiber. The jury found that the death of each decedent was caused, in part, by exposure to asbestos fiber sold by Asbestos Corporation Limited.

Marine Engineering & Supply Company was an insulation contractor that worked at the shipyard which employed Deloy McArthur during World War II. The jury found that Marine Engineering & Supply Company distributed asbestos–containing products that were defective, and that the death of Mr. McArthur was caused, in part, by his exposure to Marine Engineering's products.

Plaintiffs were represented at trial by attorneys from Brayton Purcell LLP in Novato, California.