The asbestos attorneys of Worthington & Caron, P.C. are pleased to
report that on February 16, 2022, a Santa Monica Jury awarded $5 million
to our clients in a case entitled
Brooks vs. Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc., et al. (LASC Case No. 19STCV34068).
Justice delayed but not denied by COVID-19
The verdict is the culmination of a hard-fought battle complicated at many
turns by the COVID-19 pandemic. Trial was initially scheduled for October
2021 but continued many times due to pandemic-related court closures and
other grounds. Even after the parties finally appeared for trial on November
19, 2021, emergence of the Omicron Variant caused jury selection to last
over 30 days.
It wasn’t until January 20, 2022, that trial began with opening statements.
By that time, due to settlements reached with most of the 18 defendants
named in the case, only two defendants remained, Kaiser Gypsum Company
and Mission Stucco Company.
Unfortunately, as the final trial delays were occurring, Mr. Brooks, suffering
from end stage sarcomatoid/epithelial mesothelioma, experienced a marked
decline in his condition which prevented him from testifying.
On February 16, the jury returned a verdict for Mr. Brooks and his wife
finding that asbestos in drywall products made by the Kaiser Gypsum Company
caused Mr. Brooks’ mesothelioma cancer. The jury awarded $5 million
We join trial attorney Scott Frost of the Frost Law Firm in thanking the
jurors for bravely fulfilling their civic duty under these unprecedented
circumstances. We understand it is the only civil jury trial in Los Angeles
County to proceed to verdict during this time when courts in surrounding
counties closed or suspended trials altogether.
“California Dream” Leads to Nightmare Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Mr. Brooks grew up enduring the cold winters of northern Massachusetts.
A young man in his early 20s in the late 1960s, he dreamt of California
beaches, endless summers, and being part of the burgeoning California
music scene. Mr. Brooks and three of his friends made the dream a reality
when they crammed into a Ford Mustang and drove cross country to Los Angeles
in January 1969. In no time, Mr. Brooks was surfing, going to concerts,
and enjoying his version of the California Dream.
To fund his dream, Mr. Brooks worked project-based jobs in construction
which were readily available given California’s meteoric growth
coupled with the aftermath of the 1971 Sylmar earthquake. He worked on
crews installing drywall, stucco, roofing, and decking throughout Hollywood
and the San Fernando Valley.
Little did he know that while working with materials including joint compound
and stucco, he was inhaling asbestos fibers that would remain in his chest
as a “ticking time bomb” and detonate decades later in the
form of mesothelioma cancer.
After three years in California, Mr. Brooks returned to the east coast,
had a son, graduated from college, and became a general contractor. In
the late 1980s he met his wife and moved to Hawaii where they enjoyed
an active mix of travel and work in real estate and resort management
for nearly 30 years. In 2017, they moved to Florida where they could slow
down and have easy access to European and Caribbean travel. Life was good.
Things took a dramatic turn in the summer of 2019, when the normally energetic
Mr. Brooks experienced severe shortness of breath while jogging. Weeks
later he learned he had mesothelioma; an incurable cancer caused by asbestos.
Back to California for Treatment
Determined to beat his illness, Mr. Brooks traveled to top treatment centers
across the country including Tampa, Boston, Houston, and Los Angeles. He
chose Dr. Robert Cameron and his team at UCLA to quarterback his treatment. Over the next two years,
he underwent chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and an innovative cryoablation
procedure performed by
Dr. Fereidoun Abtin at UCLA.
The treatments succeeded in extending Mr. Brooks’ life, but as trial
began in January 2022, his pain and shortness of breath worsened to the
point he could not participate.
However, through Mr. Brooks’ earlier videotaped testimony and other
witnesses called to testify on his behalf, the jury learned how the seemingly
harmless drywall mud he and millions of others used in the 1960s and 70s
caused the dreadful cancer he continues to fight.
Hoping the Verdict Sends a Message that Will Help Others
Mr. Brooks hopes the jury’s verdict will serve as a stark reminder
that asbestos in products commonly used in the 1960s and 70s continues
to wreak havoc on the lives of countless Americans.
Indeed, companies which profited handsomely on asbestos products, like
Kaiser Gypsum, would have us believe that asbestos cancer is a thing of
the past. This makes it easier for them to use increasingly creative tactics
through bankruptcy laws and otherwise to evade responsibility for the
damage they have caused. Verdicts like this are a reminder to the public
and elected officials that asbestos cancer caused by corporate malfeasance
will be with us for decades to come.