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California Flooring Executive Wins $2.85 Million Jury Verdict. Los Angeles, CA


A Los Angeles jury today returned a verdict against General Motors for poisoning Erwin Bergquist, a 74 year-old floor tile executive living with his wife of 52 years, Janelle, in Oxnard, California. Mr. Bergquist was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in March of 2006.

"We had a good case and my lawyers did a heck of a job on it, and I'm very, very happy with the outcome," said Mr. Bergquist, who served in the US Navy from 1950 to 1954, where he was exposed below deck to asbestos-insulated diesel engines made by General Motors.

The other defendants in the case settled their claims out of court, leaving General Motors as the sole defendant. The jury found that of the $2.8 million in damages, GM was responsible for 65% of the injury caused to Mr. Bergquist. "GM's arrogance before and during the trial was amazing, and the jury saw through it. They sent a powerful message that GM can't put profit first at the expense of Erwin Bergquist's life," said co-counsel David Greenstone, who tried the case.

"This was an incredibly strong verdict," agreed co-counsel Roger Worthington. "It's plain that by saddling GM with 65% of the fault, the jury didn't simply attempt to quantify the cumulative amount of asbestos fibers Mr. Bergquist inhaled over his lifetime. They focused on his exposure and GM's egregious conduct. Importantly, the jury found that GM should have known about the dangers of their asbestos insulated engines in the early 1950's."

Added Mr. Greenstone: "GM was forced to admit for the first time in open court that their own workers had suffered from asbestosis as a result of exposure to asbestos used on and inside GM products. Today's verdict shows just how deplorable GM's behavior was."

"I worked my whole career in the flooring business. I served my country and I never sued anybody, ever," said Mr. Bergquist. "But if these companies did something that's going to take ten years off my life, and they knew about it, then they should have to pay."

Mr. Bergquist was exposed to asbestos in the US Navy from 1951 to 1954 and during his career in floor covering from 1954 until 1993. In the navy he made repairs to equipment in the engine room and often had to remove asbestos insulation as well as removing and replacing asbestos gaskets on valve and pump flanges. The ship's diesel engines, manufactured by General Motors, were insulated with asbestos and were a source of airborne asbestos fibers during repairs.

Regarding his work on GM engines while in the U.S. Navy, Mr. Bergquist said, "GM brought in some expert who claimed that the GM engines weren't on my ship. We not only had three guys who testified that they were in there, I even had photos of the engines. The jury knew who to believe.

Mr. Bergquist was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in March, 2006, and had the pleurectomy / decortication surgical procedure with Dr. Robert Cameron in June, 2006. Dr. Cameron is the director of the mesothelioma program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Dr. Cameron and his staff are just great. The [pleurectomy / decortication] surgery with Dr. Cameron gave me extra time," said Mr. Bergquist. "He's a tremendous surgeon, but more than that, he's a very compassionate man. We intend to make a donation to thePacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute so Dr. Cameron can continue his research on mesothelioma."

Since the life-extending surgery, Mr. Bergquist cheerfully talks about "planning a trip to Africa with one of my grandsons." Almost a year and a half after the surgery, Mr. Bergquist plans to keep fighting his asbestos cancer with Dr. Cameron's multi-modal therapy and spend time with his family. Prior to the verdict, Mr. Bergquist had reached settlements with other defendants totaling $2.1 million.