Los Angeles Jury Awards Over $4.4 Million to Dying Steamfitter
Los Angeles, California — July 17, 2001 — A Los Angeles jury awarded James Efstratios, Sr., and his wife, Rose Efstratios, $4,438,000 in damages. James Efstratios, Sr., 77 years old, suffers from a rare form of cancer, malignant mesothelioma, which is caused by asbestos. The defendant, John Crane Inc., manufactured and supplied asbestos products, including packing and gaskets, which James Efstratios Sr., used for 12 to 15 months while working at a Lynn, Massachusetts, power plant owned by General Electric. Mr. Efstratios presently lives in Garden Grove.
The case was sent out for trial on June 12, 2001, the Honorable Fumiko Wasserman presiding. A jury was sworn on June 22, 2001, and opening statements by counsel for both plaintiffs and defendant were given three days later. The actual presentation of evidence and witnesses did not begin until June 26, 2001.
In an effort to delay the trial of the Efstratios’s case in Los Angeles Superior Court, the defendant, John Crane Inc., filed several motions that had a significant influence on the time when the presentation of evidence commenced. John Crane Inc., moved for a continuance of the original March 16, 2001, trial date, based on what they claimed was new evidence, and the continuance was granted over objections from the plaintiffs who argued that John Crane Inc. had simply done an inadequate job of conducting pretrial discovery and investigation. Under California law, had Mr. Efstratios died during this procedural delay, John Crane Inc., would not have been liable for any of his pain and suffering damages which do not survive death.
During the trial, evidence was presented that James Efstratios, Sr., regularly installed and removed John Crane, Inc.’s, asbestos-containing packing and gasket products, during a 12 to 15 month period of time while he worked as a steamfitter’s helper at the General Electric, Lynn, Massachusetts, aircraft engine manufacturing facility. James Efstratios, Sr., was exposed to the asbestos dust that emanated from those products. The jury heard from Mr. Efstratios, and his wife, Rose, about the effects that his debilitating disease has had on their lives.
James Efstratios, Sr., suffers from mesothelioma, an invariably fatal cancer involving the lining of the lungs. Although this cancer is rare in the general population, about 1500–2000 cases per year occur in people exposed to even relatively small amounts of asbestos (more information about mesothelioma is available at Mesothelioma Network). Mr. Efstratios was diagnosed in November of 1999 and is currently undergoing special treatment under close supervision of his treating physician, Dr. Robert Cameron, at UCLA Medical Center, using radiation treatments, in an attempt to control the growth of the malignancy. Although the treatment has met with limited success, the average life expectancy after diagnosis is 12–18 months.
James Efstratios, Sr., began working for General Electric just prior to World War II on their aircraft engine assembly line as a coil winder, only to return to General Electric after his three years of service in the United States Navy in the Pacific, where he was a signalman and veteran of several major engagements, including the invasion of the island of Iwo Jima. At General Electric after the War, Mr. Efstratios worked on an assembly line where he met his wife, Rose, who together have been married for 54 years. Changing duties at General Electric twice, he also worked as a plumber, and finally as a steamfitter’s helper in 1956. Mr. Efstratios next moved his young family to Garden Grove, California, in 1957, where they lived for the next forty years, to this day. Mr. Efstratios started a shoe repair business and owned his store for over 25 years, before retiring in 1986.
The jury awarded James Efstratios, Sr., $385,000 in economic damages and $3,580,000 in non–economic damages, including pain and suffering. The jury awarded Rose Efstratios $500,000 for her loss of consortium claim.
James Efstratios, Sr., and Rose Efstratios were represented by Stephen Healy, Esq., of Brayton Purcell LLP, of Los Angeles and Novato, California.
The defendant, John Crane Inc., was represented by their national counsel, Daniel J. O’Connell, Esq. and Peggy Byrne, Esq., of the Law Office of Daniel J. O’Connell, as well as by San Francisco counsel, Robert L. Nelder, Esq., of Hassard Bonnington.