Monthly Archives: April 2013
Last month, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury returned its verdict awarding $26.6 million to Michael Sutherland, a former drywaller, diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos. and his wife Suszi.
As a drywaller in northern San Diego County from 1967, Mike was still attending Madison High School. Then, through 1993, he often took extended surfing trips to Hawaii and Mexico. As a contractor, he made a living for numerous residential and commercial jobs during the construction “boom” in the 1970s. During this period, cancer-causing asbestos was a common ingredient in popular construction products. Such products include joint compound, fire-rated drywall, caulk, stucco, roofing mastic and asbestos cement pipe.
“With all the trades working on top of each other trying to finish one job and move on to the next, it was always dusty,” Mike recalled, “It wasn’t until I became a lead maintenance mechanic at UC San Diego and attended a class on job safety in 2003 that I learned that so many of the materials used on the jobs back then contained asbestos.”
The Sutherlands’ case (LASC case # BC486980) was filed on June 20, 2012. Over 30 defendants were named in the case. They had settled most of the defendants before trial. However, Stucco manufacturer, Highland Stucco and Lime Products, Inc., refused to settle. Thus, Highland was the only defendant at trial, claiming that other companies and even Mr. Sutherland himself were responsible for his exposure to asbestos. Disagreeing with Highland, the jury ultimately found the company responsible for its role in subjecting Mr. Sutherland and other members of the public to its dangerous products.
As most followers of this blog already probably realize, asbestos lawsuits are complex in a number of ways. They typically involve a number of defendants, each of whom may be brought into a case on different theories of
liability as discovery progresses. Then, discovery process grows expensive, especially as expert witnesses are almost always required.
A typical claimant is often exposed to multiple asbestos products. Thus, often it’s difficult to demonstrate the nexus between a defendant and the source of exposure. Taken together, these characteristics of the claims suggest that asbestos lawsuits are unusually difficult to resolve.
Attorneys who specialize in asbestos injury practices have, over time, obtained the requisite knowledge and experience to succeed with such cases. They have learned to develop specific plans that include the usual hurdles in this increasingly specialized area of litigation. In an asbestos injury case, a plaintiff may name anywhere from a handful to a hundreds of entities as defendants. Suing dozens of defendants can predictably result in a large number of cross claims and somewhat redundant pleadings from various parties at the discovery process. An attorney involved in an asbestos claim will usually have to sort through a maze of parties to determine who may be without liability. Such cases are not only time consuming for plaintiffs and defense counsel, but also for the court.