Los Angeles Jury Awards $4.35M to Brake Worker Who Endured Years of Asbestos
Exposure Involving Ford Motor Co. Products and Callousness of Ford’s
Counsel. Jury Now Considering Punitive Damages for Ford’s Malice
Mesothelioma Threatens “American Dream”
John and Jane Doe had been living their version of the “American
dream.” They both moved from Egypt to America in the early 1980s
with little more than hopes for a better life.
Although John graduated from college in Egypt with a degree in electrical
engineering, in America he took whatever job he could get in order to
earn a living.
By working at his brother gas station, he learned automotive repair and
the value of customer service. Less than four years later, John and his
new wife became the owners of their own Mobil station in Ontario, California.
Initially, because money was tight, they both did all of the work at the
station. John did all of the service work including countless brake jobs.
Jane worked as the cashier and bookkeeper. Through hard work and a dedication
to their customers, they made the station a success.
After 14 years, it was decided that it was time for Jane to stop working
at the station so they could start a family. Their daughter was born in
September 2000. For the last ten years, Jane has devoted her time to being
a full time mother.. The responsibility of taking care of the family business
remained with John. Jane describes John as a workhorse, willing and able
to devote countless hours to running a successful business which would
provide them with a reliable income for years to come.
In December of 2009, the family received devastating news which threatened
to undo all of John’s hard work. John was diagnosed with malignant
pleural mesothelioma, a lethal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
Ironically, the tireless hours of automotive work which paved the way
for his new life in America, also exposed him to deadly asbestos fibers
present in the brakes of the cars he worked on.
Fighting Back With the Help of Dr. Robert Cameron
Following the shock from the diagnosis, John and Jane fought back. Jane
conducted a tireless search for the best available medical treatment.
She took John to a number of doctors in Orange County and Palm Springs,
Dr. Robert Cameron, thoracic surgeon and head of the Mesothelioma Program at UCLA Medical Center.
On January 28, 2010, John underwent a
pleurectomy/decortication surgery performed by Dr. Cameron. The procedure, innovated by Dr. Cameron,
involves removal of the tumor while sparing the affected lung. Following
the surgery, John completed six weeks of radiation and is now receiving
“maintenance” therapy involving immunotherapy.
The good news is that John’s most recent PET and CT scans reveal
that the treatment has been successful and that there continues to be
no tumor recurrence.
Fighting Back Against the Companies Responsible for His Illness
The expense of John’s medical treatment and his inability to work,
posed an immediate threat to the family’s financial well-being.
The family retained the
Law Office of Roger G. Worthington and the
Farrise Law firm to pursue claims for any compensation they might be eligible to receive.
The attorneys acted quickly, filing a case in Los Angeles against over
30 different companies. By the time trial was underway in earnest in November,
only one company remained, Ford Motor Company.
Dr. Robert Cameron appeared at trial and provided moving testimony about
the invasive nature of John’s disease and the courage and determination
which John has shown throughout the often arduous treatment.
John, Jane and John’s brother all provided testimony about John’s
years of exposure to asbestos dust from brakes on Ford vehicles. These
exposures beginning in the 1980s, more than 50 years after compelling
medical information linking asbestos to serious lung disease was available
to Ford and other companies which sold asbestos-containing products.
In an unwarranted act of callousness, counsel for Ford urged the jury to
disbelieve John’s testimony about exposure to asbestos involving
Ford products—even though this testimony was confirmed by Jane and
John’s brother. In other words, Ford counsel tried to convince the
jury that these Egyptian immigrants, who dared to challenge the venerable
American corporate titan, Ford Motor Company, should be discounted as liars!
Jury Awards $4.35M in Compensatory Damages—Punitives Still to Come
On December 13, 2010, the jury of seven men and five women came back after
seven hours of deliberations with a verdict in John and Jane’s favor.
The jury found Ford Motor Company 100% responsible and awarded damages totaling
$4,355,687. Of this amount, approximately $2.1 million was awarded for past and future
economic damages incurred as a result of John’s illness. The remainder
of the award was for general or emotional distress damages.
Importantly, the jury also found that that Ford acted with malice, oppression
or fraud which may warrant an award of punitive damages, or damages intended
to punish Ford for its conduct.
However the jury decides on punitive damages, this is an important victory
for a very deserving family. "The Ford Motor Company has been killing
people for decades," said Simona Farrise, our co-counsel and lead
trial attorney. "They put asbestos brakes in their cars for years,
and those cars are still roaming our streets emitting deadly asbestos
fibers. The jury has issued a wake up call to Ford and its shareholders—their
duty to remove asbestos from their cars is long overdue."
The punitive damages phase of the trial begins today (December 14, 2010).
We will update this story when the jury’s decision is announced.