Jury Assesses a $3.4 Million Verdict for the Family of a Former Johns–Manville Plant Worker
San Francisco, CA — July 22, 2009 — After a single day of deliberations on Wednesday, July 22, 2009, a San Francisco jury ruled in favor of the family of Richard Worthley Sr., a deceased former Johns–Manville Transite plant worker from Beaumont, California. The jury assessed a combined verdict of almost $3.4 million against Advocate Mines Limited due to their contribution in causing Mr. Worthley’s mesothelioma and death. The jury determined that Advocate Mines Limited exposed Mr. Worthley to its defectively designed asbestos product, failed to warn about the dangers of their asbestos product and that they were negligent. Advocate Mines Limited is an asbestos mine in Baie Verte, Newfoundland.
Mr. Worthley served in the United States Marine Corps in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, California, and Vietnam from 1963 to 1967. In May 1968, he started his career at the Johns–Manville, Waukegan, IL plant as a painter, then a production planner, and eventually as a millwright. When the Johns–Manville plant closed in 1984, he worked as a maintenance mechanic and service technician throughout Southern California. In 2004, Mr. Worthley was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a fatal asbestos-caused cancer of the pleura, the organ that protects the lungs.
Advocate Mines Limited supplied bulk asbestos fiber to the Johns–Manville, Waukegan, IL plant from December 1963 to April 1967. During his career at the plant from May 1968 to November 1984, Mr. Worthley was exposed to dust from the raw asbestos fiber used to make Transite asbestos–cement pipe, including asbestos fiber that had been re-entrained and resuspended from when Advocate Mines Limited supplied asbestos fiber to the plant. In addition to simply being present on a daily basis in the contaminated plant, one of Mr. Worthley’s jobs was to clean and repair the Transite manufacturing equipment. This included the willows, cleaning and repairing the dust collection equipment, the baghouses, ventilators, and cyclones. All these activities exposed Mr. Worthley to asbestos dust, including asbestos that originated from Advocate Mines Limited.
The trial began on June 10, 2009, and was presided over by the Honorable Tomar Mason in Department 606 of the San Francisco Superior Court. At trial, plaintiffs presented evidence showing that when used as intended, hazardous levels of respirable asbestos dust from Advocate Mines Limited raw asbestos fiber was released into the background of the facility. By 1963, it was well established in medicine and science that asbestos caused asbestosis, pleural disease, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Yet, Advocate Mines Limited supplied its defective asbestos fiber without any warnings or any other reasonable care to avoid injury to others. The jury assigned 5% percent of the liability to Advocate Mines Limited.
“We demonstrated to the jury that it was the total dose of asbestos that Mr. Worthley was exposed to at the Johns–Manville plant, including resuspended asbestos fiber from Advocate Mines Limited, that contributed together to cause his mesothelioma and death,” said James P. Nevin, counsel for Richard Worthley. Mr. Nevin of Brayton Purcell LLP, represented the Worthley family at trial.
Defendant Advocate Mines Limited was represented at trial by John Graniez and Suzanne Golden of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP.