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Justice Delayed, But Not Denied--$8.6 Million Verdict In Favor Of Family of 68 Year-Old Refinery Worker

12-19-2013

The Law Office of Worthington & Caron PC is pleased to report that a Los Angeles jury has recently returned an $8.6 million verdict in favor of our clients, the surviving wife and daughters of a 68 year-old refinery worker, in a case titled Saller v. Crown Cork & Seal.

The verdict is the culmination of a long and emotional ordeal for the family which began in June of 2005 when Mr. Saller was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. A proud man with much to live for, Mr. Saller fought valiantly against his disease, undergoing a ten-hour surgery followed by over a month of radiation treatments.

A former Marine Corporal, refinery worker and heavy equipment operator, Mr. Saller worked hard for everything he accomplished in his life. He certainly never thought of himself as a person who would file a personal injury lawsuit. But after learning how long companies continued selling asbestos after knowing it caused lung disease and cancer, he concluded that filing a lawsuit was the right and just thing to do. His asbestos disease was threatening the financial security he worked so hard to attain. He knew that his life and the lives of his wife and daughters would never be the same. So he decided to fight back.

Through his legal team, the Worthington & Caron and Waters, Kraus & Paul law firms, a lawsuit was filed against over 20 defendants on November 1, 2005. On January 19, 2006, Mr. Saller began what proved to be a lengthy deposition in which he was questioned for days by asbestos company lawyers. Unfortunately, Mr. Saller’s condition began to decline and it became more and more difficult for him to concentrate and endure the questioning.

“Mr. Saller’s body was slowly shutting down,” recalls attorney John Caron, who represented Mr. Saller through the entirety of the deposition. “He knew that if he didn’t complete his deposition, any hope of achieving justice for his family would be lost. He knew he was losing the battle against his disease, but he would not give in to it until he finished the job he had started.”

Mr. Saller completed the job on February 2, 2006. He passed away a week later on February 9, 2006.

Having witnessed Mr. Saller fight so courageously for them, his wife and daughters resolved to finish the job he had started. Their case dragged through the system until finally being called for trial almost two years later in December 2007. Mrs. Saller and her daughters endured hours of Mr. Saller’s videotaped testimony, reliving the steady demise that ultimately led to his passing. The family was hopeful that the jury would grant them the justice that Mr. Saller fought so hard to achieve. But the jury felt compelled to find against the family, and in favor of the two companies remaining in the case, because of what were believed to be improper jury instructions given by the judge.

The family’s fight for justice didn’t end there. An appeal was filed in which the court of appeal was asked to reverse the trial court’s judgment based on the improper jury instructions. The asbestos company lawyers opposed the appeal and the matter languished in the system for over three years. But on August 27, 2010, the court of appeal found that the trial judge’s instructions were indeed improper and had denied justice to the Saller family. Accordingly, the court of appeal returned the case to the trial court for a new trial before a new judge.

Again, the wheels of justice turned excruciatingly slow. Over the course of more than three years, the case was set for trial on six separate occasions, only to be continued for some reason outside of the family’s control. Ultimately, the case began trial on November 21, 2013.

In the six years that had passed, one of the defendants in the first trial had gone bankrupt, so the only defendant at trial was Crown, Cork & Seal Company. Mr. Saller testified that he was exposed to dust from asbestos pipe covering insulation made by the company’s predecessor, Mundet, while working at the Standard Oil refinery in El Segundo from 1959 to 1966.

The Saller family was represented at trial by attorney Scott Frost who deftly presented evidence establishing the asbestos content of the products, the manner in which the toxic dust from the products was inhaled by Mr. Saller and other workers at the refinery, the company’s knowledge of the hazards of their asbestos products and their failure to provide warnings to Mr. Saller and others so that they could have avoided the deadly effects of their products.

At the trial, the videotapes of Mr. Saller’s deposition were shown, again revealing his relentless fight to present the evidence of his case as his disease unmercifully progressed. For the family, the trial took them back seven years, re-opening the emotional wounds that they had tried so hard to heal. But for each one of them, all of this was secondary.

“There’s no way we’re giving up,” said Mrs. Saller. “He kept going because of us. Now it’s our turn to keep going for him.”

On December 13, 2013, over eight and-a-half years after Mr. Saller’s diagnosis, the family finally got their first taste of justice. The jury in the case returned a verdict of $5,016,000 for which Crown, Cork & Seal was determined to be 30% responsible. The jury also determined that the company had acted with malice or conscious disregard justifying an award of punitive damages. On December 16, 2013, the jury awarded $3,600,000 in punitive damages against the company.

“I’m shocked, thrilled and relieved,” said Mrs. Saller. “I’m so pleased that he finally got his justice. It’s such a great feeling, like a weight has finally been lifted from our shoulders. My family, our attorneys, we all finished the job. Just like he did. My husband can finally rest in peace.”

Categories: Mesothelioma Verdicts

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