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.