Mesothelioma Trial Results in Verdict for San Francisco Plumber

$41,273,421 Verdict for Retired Local #38 Plumber in San Francisco, California

On Wednesday, May 11, 2011, after a three–week trial and a half day of deliberations, a unanimous San Francisco jury found Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc., a manufacturer of joint compounds and wallboard materials, guilty of acting with oppression or malice by clear and convincing evidence. The jury levied a $20,000,000 punitive damages verdict against defendant Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc.

This followed a previous verdict on Thursday, March 17, 2011, after a fourteen–week trial and 2 and a half weeks of deliberations, when a San Francisco jury ruled against defendant Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc. and defendant FDCC California, Inc. (formerly known as Dinwiddie Construction Company), a general contractor, in a negligence and products liability trial. The jury found that both FDCC California, Inc. and Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc. were negligent, in addition to determining that Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc.'s asbestos–containing joint compounds and wallboards were defectively designed and contained a failure to warn product defect. The jury assessed $1,273,421 in economic damages, $15,000,000 in non–economic damages, and $5,000,000 in loss of consortium damages. The jury assigned 7 percent of the liability to defendant FDCC California, Inc. and 3.5 percent of the liability to defendant Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc.

Mr. John Casey has been courageously battling mesothelioma, an invariably fatal cancer of the lining of the lungs caused exclusively by asbestos exposure, since his diagnosis on January 24, 2010.

Mr. Casey worked as a plumber at numerous high–rise commercial buildings throughout San Francisco between 1961 and 2001 when he retired from working at the University of California San Francisco. Mr. Casey worked directly with asbestos–containing products and near other workers who used and disturbed asbestos–containing products.

At trial, plaintiffs presented evidence showing that the knowledge of hazards of exposure to asbestos dates prior to the 1920s. Indeed, knowledge of its dangers had progressed to the point of knowing it caused cancer by at least as early as the 1950s.

"We are very gratified with both jury decisions and thankful for their efforts," said Gilbert Purcell, counsel for Mr. Casey. "Mr. Casey is a wonderful, deserving man and the jury process didn't let him down. We thank the jury for speaking in a loud, clear voice with their message that product manufacturers cannot place profits over consumer safety." Gilbert Purcell, along with Dustin Bodaghi of Brayton Purcell LLP, represented John Casey and Patricia, his wife of 40 years.

The trial, which began in December, was presided over by the Honorable Donald Sullivan who sits in Department 318 of the San Francisco Superior Court. Defendant FDCC California, Inc. was represented by Michael A. Vasquez, Esq. and Robert J. Bugatto, Esq. of Vasquez, Estrada & Conway, LLP. Defendant Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc., was represented at trial by Julie A. Torres, Esq. and Jillian Keith, Esq., of Dehay & Elliston LLP, and David A. Shaw of Williams Kastner.

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