$250,000 Verdict for Asbestos-Caused Lung Cancer for Heavy Smoker
On Friday, January 17, 2020, in Alameda County Superior Court, the jury returned a $250,000.00 verdict in favor of the Mahoney family, for the wrongful death of deceased retired career plasterer Russell Mahoney, against defendants Kaiser Cement Corporation and Kaiser Gypsum, Inc. The jury assessed 21% fault against the two Kaiser defendants.
The decedent Russell Mahoney died in 2014 at 85 years old from lung cancer. Based on his advanced age, years of heavy smoking, severe emphysema, lack of pathological asbestosis, and service in the Navy prior to becoming a plasterer, the two Kaiser defendants had refused to resolve the case despite the fact that many other manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos-containing products had previously settled the case.
Partner James P. Nevin of Brayton Purcell LLP tried the case on behalf of the family. According to Mr. Nevin, “We are gratified that the jury agreed with us that even heavy smokers who get lung cancer should get justice against asbestos defendants. The mainstream medical science clearly demonstrates that asbestos dust and cigarette smoke act together synergistically to cause lung cancer.”
The decedent had been a heavy smoker and had emphysema, but also had markers of asbestos-caused lung cancer such as pleural plaques and radiologic mild asbestosis, even though his tumor was so advanced at autopsy that the pathologists were unable to confirm pathologic asbestosis. While the Mahoney family accepted that the decedent was responsible for the cigarettes that he used having contributed to causing his lung cancer, the family brought the lawsuit seeking to force the entities who exposed him to asbestos dust to accept their portion of responsibility.
The decedent had served in the U.S. Navy from 1946 to 1950 and then was a career plasterer from 1950 to 1990. During this time period, he used and was a bystander to others using, both gun and hand-applied Plastic Cement from Kaiser Cement Corporation and K-Spray acoustical ceiling spray and joint compound manufactured by Kaiser Gypsum, Inc., as well as other asbestos-containing products.
At trial, plaintiffs presented evidence showing not only that Kaiser should have known of the medical and scientific literature, as well as California and various Federal regulations, dating back to 1930 that specifically required them to know of, test for, and warn of asbestos hazards from their products, and to use precautions to protect both workers from the hazards of breathing asbestos dust, but also, from internal company documents, that they in fact knew as far back as 1965 that the inhalation of asbestos dust released from their products would cause cancer in their customers and bystanders many decades later. Despite this knowledge, Kaiser sold its products with no warning at all until just before when they removed the asbestos they included an inadequate warning.
The trial, which began November 6, 2019, but had long breaks for both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, was presided over by the Honorable Winifred Smith, Department 21, Alameda Superior Court. Defendants Kaiser Cement Corporation and Kaiser Gypsum, Inc. were represented at trial by Peter Langbord, Esq. and Dustin Priebe, Esq. of Foley & Mansfield LLP.
Court: Alameda County Superior Court
Case No.: No. RG14726000
Judge: Honorable Winfred Smith
Trial Type: Jury of 12
Length: 5 weeks not including holiday breaks
Parties: LOUISE MAHONEY, as Successor-in-Interest to and as Wrongful Death Heir of RUSSELL MAHONEY, Deceased; and MICHAEL MAHONEY, DAVID MAHONEY, JAMES MAHONEY, LINDA MAHONEY CAMBRA, JOHN MAHONEY, and DENNIS MAHONEY, as Wrongful Death Heirs of RUSSELL MAHONEY, Deceased
Plaintiffs’ Verdict: January 17, 2020 ($250,000.00)
For: Plaintiffs LOUISE MAHONEY, as Successor-in-Interest to and as Wrongful Death Heir of RUSSELL MAHONEY, Deceased; and MICHAEL MAHONEY, DAVID MAHONEY, JAMES MAHONEY, LINDA MAHONEY CAMBRA, JOHN MAHONEY, and DENNIS MAHONEY, as Wrongful Death Heirs of RUSSELL MAHONEY, Deceased
Against: Defendants KAISER GYPSUM COMPANY, INC. AND HANSON PERMANENTE CEMENT, INC. (F/K/A KAISER CEMENT CORPORATION)
Economic Damages: $200,000.00
Non-Economic Damages: $50,000.00
Total = $250,000.00
Causes of action: Negligence, Product Liability Design Defect, Product Liability Failure to Warn
For Plaintiff: James P. Nevin, Partner, Brayton❖Purcell LLP, Novato, California.
For KAISER GYPSUM COMPANY, INC. AND HANSON PERMANENTE CEMENT, INC. (F/K/A KAISER CEMENT CORPORATION): Peter Langbord, Esq. and Dustin Priebe of Foley & Mansfield LLP
Dr. Richard Cohen, M.D., M.P.H (Occupational and Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology)
Dr. Arnold Brody, PH.D. (Cellular Biology)
Dr. Brent Staggs, M.D. (Pathology)
Dr. Ronald Gordon (Pathologic Microscopy)
James Mills (Economist)
Marilyn Pacheco (Medical Billing)
Dr. Brent Finley, PH.D. (Toxicology)
Captain Margaret McCloskey (Naval Researcher)
Dr. Roggli, M.D. (Pathology)