Verdict of $1,917,400 for Retired Navy Machinist Exposed to Asbestos
San Francisco, CA — March 24, 2006 — A jury ruled in favor of a retired machinist, Charlton Clemmer, and his wife, Kay, in their products liability and negligence trial against John Crane, Inc., a former manufacturer of asbestos-containing valve and pump packing, and Thorpe Insulation Company, a former supplier and distributor of asbestos thermal insulation. The defendants were negligent and failed to warn about defects in their products, which were defectively designed, according to the jury. It assessed over $550,000 in economic damages, $1.1 million in non–economic damages, and $250,000 for loss of consortium.
In June 2004, Mr. Clemmer was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a fatal cancer of the lining of the lungs that is caused by exposure to asbestos. During 20 years of service in the Navy (1952–1972), Mr. Clemmer had worked aboard many destroyers as well as on the aircraft carrier USS YORKTOWN where he was in charge of equipment maintenance and repair. In his job as a marine machinist, and later as a chief petty officer, he worked around a variety of asbestos-containing products.
Mr. Clemmer retired from the Navy in April 1972, after achieving the rank of Recruit Company Commander. In retirement, prior to his mesothelioma diagnosis, he worked as a building superintendent for First Baptist Church and at Holy Angels Hospital in Gaston, North Carolina.
John Crane, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of industrial packing, gaskets, and seals. It supplied asbestos-containing packing to the Navy throughout Mr. Clemmer’s career. Since 1957, Thorpe Insulation Company was the main supplier of Johns–Manville thermal insulation products in Southern California and in particular to the Long Beach Naval Shipyard where the ships that Mr. Clemmer served aboard were repaired. The products included pipe and boiler insulation, asbestos cloth, and insulating mud.
During the trial, the plaintiffs showed that the hazards of exposure to asbestos were known since the 1920s. By the early 1950s, it was apparent that asbestos-caused cancer.
“I wish that companies whose products have caused serious injury would take note and responsibly address the human toll without the time and again putting deserving plaintiffs like the Clemmers through a trial,” said Gilbert Purcell, who along with Gary Brayton of Brayton Purcell LLP, represented the Clemmers. “John Crane, Inc. refuses to settle any case and has taken this stance for over 20 years despite verdict after the verdict against them. It’s their right—but it is still unfortunate.”