SF Jury Delivers Verdict of $3.4 Million in Colon Cancer Asbestos Trial
San Francisco, California — May 27, 2005 — A San Francisco jury delivered a plaintiff's verdict of over $3.4 million for Ralph Pierce, a 70–year old retired machine operator and supervisor suffering from colon cancer from his on–the–job exposure to asbestos products. The amount was for economic and non–economic damages as well as for past and future medical expenses. Judge Mary Wiss presided over the 5–week trial.
Mr. Pierce was employed with the West Contra Costa County Wastewater District from 1972 through 1997. During this time, he worked with asbestos–containing cement pipe manufactured by the defendant, Certainteed Corporation. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2003.
Internal company documents showed that Certainteed Corporation knew of the dangers of asbestos since before the mid–1960s when company representatives attended symposia presented by Dr. Irving Selikoff concerning the cancer risks posed by asbestos. Their knowledge pre–dated Mr. Pierce's exposure to Certainteed asbestos products by more than seven years—plenty of time to warn people of the asbestos dangers. Despite this, Certainteed did not give warnings about asbestos until 1985, long after Mr. Pierce had suffered exposures.
The jury found that Certainteed Corporation made defective pipe and failed to warn Mr. Pierce that it contained asbestos or was hazardous. It concluded that Mr. Pierce's exposure to the pipe was a cause of his colon cancer.
"We are thankful that Mr. Pierce got the opportunity to present his case in court," said Gilbert L. Purcell, Mr. Pierce's attorney. "The verdict shows at least two things—that trials work, and that access to courts is essential to achieve and maintain corporate accountability. Without the courts, companies can duck responsibility for their wrongful conduct. The legislative 'one–size–fits–all' asbestos bailout bills that are presently in Congress work injustice in ways that juries can check, as was done in this case. The public, which is comprised of innocent individuals like Mr. Pierce, wins with access to courts."
Mr. Pierce was represented at trial by Gilbert L. Purcell of Brayton Purcell LLP.
Certainteed Corporation was represented by Lisa Oberg, Sheila O'Gara and Mabi Ellis of the San Francisco Offices of McKenna, Long & Aldridge.