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Jury Awards $7M to Retired Banker Exposed to Asbestos

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The Worthington Caron Law Firm is pleased to report that on October 24, 2016 a Los Angeles jury awarded $7,042,300 to our clients in Los Angeles Superior Court Case Number BC604809.

The plaintiff was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure asbestos, in October 2015 at the age of 71. A career banker, he had no idea how he was exposed to asbestos upon learning of his diagnosis.

Plaintiff was born near Palermo, Sicily and lived on a farm with seven older siblings. His mother wanted him to have more opportunity than what a one-eighth share of the family farm could provide. So in 1959, at the age of 15, she had him move to the United States to live with his uncle in San Francisco. To “earn his keep,” his uncle put him to work fixing water-damaged walls in the house. Once completed, plaintiff spruced up the remainder of the house, patching and painting interior and exterior walls, and fixing roof leaks.

Because he didn’t speak English, plaintiff attended an adult school. Through a mutual friend, he met the woman who would become his wife, also an immigrant whose parents had moved her to the United States for a better life. They married in 1965 and purchased their first home, a fixer-upper, in 1966. Mr. plaintiff did all the renovation work, inside and out.

Dust from “Fixer- Uppers”

By the early 1970s, plaintiff determined that his job at the bank would never provide the quality of life he sought for his young family, which now included a daughter and son. He therefore began a “side-business” of purchasing and renovating residential properties. In the early years, plaintiff contributed the “sweat equity,” doing all the renovation work himself.

From a financial standpoint, the side-business was a huge success. It contributed greatly to the family income, allowing the family to live in a hilltop home where plaintiff could grow fruits and vegetables reminiscent of his childhood in Sicily. It allowed the family to frequent and later purchase a neighborhood tennis and swim club where they built a strong network of friends and where plaintiff and his son became accomplished tennis players. The side-business also made it possible for the plaintiff’s children to attend college and go on to successful careers of their own.

From a health standpoint, however, plaintiff’s work getting the side-business off the ground has brought the family’s “American Dream” to a crashing halt. Unbeknownst to plaintiff, the products he used renovating properties in the 1960s and 1970s (joint compound, caulk, stucco, roof cement, and decking material) contained asbestos. The toxic fibers lodged in his respiratory system triggering an inflammatory response which, over the following decades, resulted in a deadly tumor engulfing his right lung.

Lung-Sparing Surgery and Radiation

After his family and doctors conducted a nationwide search for the best available medical treatment, plaintiff decided to pursue treatment with Dr. Robert Cameron and the UCLA Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program in Los Angeles. He underwent a lung-sparing pleurectomy/decortication surgery performed by Dr. Cameron on November 5, 2015. He returned to Los Angeles for five weeks of radiation treatments which were completed in February 2016.

Los Angeles Jury Finds Fault

Through their legal counsel, Worthington & Caron, PC and Waters, Kraus & Paul, LLP, plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against over 20 companies in December 2015. Pre-trial settlements were reached with a number of companies. When trial began in July 2016, there were still 12 companies left in the case. In the course of trial proceedings over the next eleven weeks, settlements were reached with all but four companies.

The case was submitted to the jury on October 14. After over a week of deliberations, on October 24, the jury returned a verdict of $7,042,300 in favor of plaintiffs. The jury assigned 25% of fault to Rich-Tex, Inc. the sole remaining manufacturer of joint compound still in the case.

Plaintiff’s are very appreciative of the jury who took nearly three months out of their lives to decide their case. They are also extremely grateful for the tireless work of their legal team.

Thankful for Quality of Life

With the trial now over, they are happy to be home where they can return their focus to plaintiff’s health. Plaintiff has returned to daily walks around the neighborhood and tending to his garden and fruit trees. He has even returned to playing tennis. This winter he is hoping to return to downhill skiing. He is being closely monitored by Dr. Cameron and, to date, there is no sign of the tumor recurring.

Plaintiff and his family are most thankful to Dr. Cameron and his staff at UCLA, “Dr. Cameron is one-of-a-kind, instead of sewing me up or taking out my lung after a couple hours of surgery, Dr. Cameron kept at it for 12 hours removing the entire tumor and leaving me with two functioning lungs. Without this, there’s no way I could return to a ‘quality’ life of walking, gardening, playing tennis, and playing with my grand-kids.”

Plaintiff is a big supporter of Dr. Cameron’s research at the Pacific Mesothelioma Center. “Now that Dr. Cameron has taken out my tumor, I’m hopeful that the research he and Dr. Wong are doing at PMC will lead to even more weapons to keep my tumor from coming back. I urge Dr. Cameron’s other mesothelioma patients to join me in doing everything we can to support his research.”