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Oregon Union Pipefitter Settles Mesothelioma Claim. Portland, OR

Greg Deblock, a career union pipefitter and business manager from Portland, settled his mesothelioma personal injury lawsuit for an amount believed to be the highest ever for a mesothelioma case filed in Portland, Oregon. Poised to deliver a knock-out blow in trial last week to the remaining defendants, Mr. Deblock died from his asbestos cancer on the second day of trial. He was 73 years old.

"He did not die in vain," said attorney John Caron, who was part of the litigation team comprised of the Law Office of Roger Worthington, Simon, Eddins & Greenstone, and Swanson Thomas & Coon.

"His case resulted in favorable rulings by Judge Michael Marcus that will help Mr. Deblock's union brothers who have been similarly poisoned in future litigation. The court ruled that under Oregon law, valve, pump, and boiler manufacturers can be held liable for failing to warn of the dangers associated with asbestos insulation, gaskets, and packing used with the equipment, even when the materials were not supplied by the equipment manufacturer. No longer will these manufacturers be able to avoid liability to Oregon workers who were exposed to asbestos when using their equipment by claiming that the asbestos insulation, gaskets, or packing used with the equipment were supplied by someone else."

Ron Eddins, lead counsel for Simon Eddins & Greenstone, concurred. "The defendants tried to send this case off into the black hole of federal court mass-tort litigation, where asbestos claims are sent to die, with the victim never getting his day in court. And of course given mesothelioma's aggressive, terminal course, the claim dies when the patient dies. In this case we blocked the defense's tactic and got the case sent back to Oregon court in record time."

The case was filed at the very end of February, 2007, and went to trial a scant seven months later. "We fast-track our clients' cases so that they can get before a jury immediately. Days matter when you have mesothelioma," said attorney Roger Worthington. "Unfortunately, the defense's delay tactics were partially successful: Mr. Deblock died before the trial concluded. It is repugnant that the state provides a huge economic windfall to bad guys who kill rather than maim their victims." Worthington noted that under Oregon's wrongful death law, the recovery of the decedent's estate is limited to $500,000. "This is an arbitrary and insulting sum for the families of people who have been struck down in the prime of their life."

Mr. Deblock was exposed to airborne asbestos fibers as an ironworker and a steamfitter over a career that spanned four decades. Applying gaskets to equipment flanges and working closely with insulators also exposed him to substantial amounts of asbestos. New construction jobs required installation of new pipe to boilers, turbines, compressors, condensers, pumps, and valves, all of which involved substantial work with asbestos sheet and pre-formed gaskets.

Wrongful death claims are being asserted against the remaining defendant on behalf of Mr. Deblock's heirs and estate. Trial of the wrongful death claims is scheduled for February 4, 2008. The defense is opportunistically claiming that Oregon's cap on wrongful death damages bars further recovery. At trial, and if necessary on appeal, we intend to challenge the constitutionality of the Oregon law which rewards defendants when injured plaintiffs die from their injuries prior to a jury verdict.

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