San Francisco Jury Awards Over $2.3 Million to Ex–Johns Manville Worker
San Francisco, CA — On December 21, 2001, a San Francisco jury awarded Guadalupe Laguna and his wife, Amalia Laguna, $2,303,751.58 in damages. Guadalupe Laguna, 60 years old, suffers from asbestosis and asbestos–pleural disease, caused by his occupational exposures to asbestos. The defendant, Calaveras Asbestos, Ltd., manufactured and supplied asbestos fiber binder products primarily for use in the asbestos–cement products industry, including the old Johns–Manville Transite plant in Stockton, California, where Mr. Laguna worked for over 14 years.
The trial began on November 26, 2001, before San Francisco Superior Court Judge David Ballati. A jury was impaneled to hear the case and heard testimony. Closing arguments were presented on December 18 and December 19, 2001. The jury deliberated for two days before reaching its verdict. During the trial, testimony concerning asbestos, medical diagnosis of asbestos disease, epidemiology, and industrial hygiene was presented, as well as evidence regarding Mr. Laguna’s occupational exposure circumstances. Most of the evidence at trial centered around the substantial exposure to asbestos which Mr. Laguna and his co-workers suffered while working at the Johns–Manville plant in Stockton, California, which manufactured asbestos-containing Transite products from the 1950s until the late 1980s. Testimony on the dusty and dirty conditions of the plant, as well as the manner and type of job duties which the workers performed at that facility, was heard from Mr. Laguna. The jury also heard from Mrs. Amalia Laguna and the Laguna’s two sons, Edward and Gabriel, about the effects that his debilitating disease has had on all of their lives.
Guadalupe Laguna worked at the Johns–Manville plant in Stockton, California, from approximately 1968 until 1981, when, as a Union worker, he and others were forced out of the plant by Johns–Manville during a labor dispute. During his nearly fourteen-year career working for Johns–Manville, Mr. Laguna worked as a machine operator and pipe inspector. Calaveras Asbestos, Ltd., manufactured and supplied its asbestos fiber binder product to the Johns–Manville plant from approximately 1976 until Calaveras Asbestos, Ltd., closed its asbestos fiber binder manufacturing and supply facility in Cooperopolis, California, in 1987 for economic reasons related to asbestos fiber output. During the time which Calaveras Asbestos, Ltd., supplied asbestos fiber binder product to Johns–Manville, its dry and dusty product was incorporated into the blends used to manufacture Transite pressure pipe and other Transite products. Mr. Laguna was exposed to the asbestos dust that emanated from these asbestos-containing products during the entire manufacturing process. Mr. Laguna and other workers were heavily exposed to asbestos during the lathing and machining of the Transite pipe and products, as well as during the final Transite pipe inspection and testing processes. After leaving Johns–Manville, Mr. Laguna worked at a few other jobs, including Rotor Blades and at Sharpe Army Depot until his asbestos-related lung diseases forced him to retire in mid–2000.
Guadalupe Laguna suffers from end-stage asbestosis and asbestos–pleural disease. There is no cure for asbestosis and Mr. Laguna’s condition is likely to continue to worsen. He will be treated with various prescription drugs to help alleviate the symptoms of his disease and lessen any pain and discomfort from which he suffers. He was diagnosed in approximately 1997 but continued to work until 2000 when his treating physician told him to retire.
The jury awarded Guadalupe Laguna over $1,700,000 in economic and non–economic damages, including his loss of income and pain and suffering. The jury awarded Amalia Laguna $550,000 for her loss of consortium claim. The jury found that Calaveras Asbestos, Ltd.’s, asbestos fiber binder product was defective in design under California consumer safety laws and that the company was negligent in its manufacture and supply of its asbestos fiber binder product. The jury failed to conclude that Calaveras Asbestos, Ltd., was guilty of malice or oppression in its conduct and so punitive damages were not awarded.
Plaintiffs Guadalupe Laguna and Amalia Laguna were represented by the law firm of Brayton Purcell LLP of Novato, California. Defendant Calaveras Asbestos, Ltd., was represented by Bishop, Barry, Howe, Haney & Ryder.