Janitor and Marine Machinist Wins Multi-Million Dollar Settlement for Mesothelioma
San Francisco, CA — December 10, 2008 — After two weeks in trial, a retired San Francisco Bay Area janitor and marine machinist, on Tuesday, December 9, 2008, won a settlement in excess of $7.5 million from defendants responsible for his prior occupational exposure to asbestos. Mr. Robert “Bobby” Hilt and his wife of over 43 years, Geraldine Hilt, were plaintiffs in a trial that began November 17, 2008, in Department 210 of the San Francisco Superior Court, the Honorable James J. McBride presiding. The trial began with 11 defendants that made, supplied or distributed the asbestos-containing products Mr. Hilt worked with or around dating back to the early 1960s.
Asbestos Exposure in Work History
Mr. Hilt was born in 1944 in San Francisco, California, and graduated from Balboa High School. After high school he was trained as a machinist at a local trade school. Mr. Hilt worked as a janitor for Schlage Lock Company at their Bayshore plant from 1963 to 1965, cleaning around asbestos-laden Kewanee Boilers after maintenance had disturbed the asbestos insulation. In 1965, he was hired by Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, staying until 1972, where he installed valves and pumps and was exposed to airborne asbestos from gasket materials used on Buffalo, Warren and Viking pumps. In the early 1970s he was “loaned out” to Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California where he worked aboard new construction Sturgeon Class submarines, including the USS Guitarro and Drum. Mr. Hilt worked in the nuclear reactor compartments of these submarines as a machinist, and was exposed to Unibestos pipe insulation being installed in the same submarine compartment by insulators on stainless steel pipe. Unibestos pipe insulation contained approximately 90% amosite asbestos and was sold to the Navy for specific use in the construction of these submarines by MetalClad Insulation Company, a defendant in Mr. Hilt’s case. In 1972 Mr. Hilt took a job at the US Mint in San Francisco where he stayed until his retirement in 2004.
Mesothelioma Developed From Work Exposure
In early 2008, Mr. Hilt was diagnosed with mesothelioma by his doctors at Kaiser Hospital in Vallejo, California. His diagnosis prompted an investigation into his work history to determine when and where he had been exposed to asbestos. Pleural epithelial mesothelioma, the specific histological type diagnosed in Mr. Hilt’s case, is an invariably fatal cancer of the lining of the chest cavity and lungs caused by exposure to asbestos dust. Mesothelioma is slow to develop, having a latency period often over 40 years, and is regarded as a signal tumor for prior asbestos exposure.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that is often so small; dust coming from asbestos products is completely invisible. Asbestos was commonly used in many building products dating to the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 1970s including pipe and boiler block insulation, gaskets, pump and valve packings, cement pipe, joint compounds, tapes, friction lining products such as clutches and car brakes, ceiling and floor tiles, and other products. The US EPA estimated that asbestos was used in over 3,000 different products.
“We unfortunately continue to see many new cases of this terrible disease,” said senior trial partner Gilbert Purcell who represented Mr. and Mrs. Hilt at trial. “Mr. Hilt was diagnosed in January and we are very thankful and happy to have been able to expedite his trial and achieve some measure of justice for him and his family before the year was out. He and his entire family are wonderful people who do not deserve this disease,” Mr. Purcell added.