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Litigation

Los Angeles Jury Awards $200 Million in Punitive Damages for Secondhand Asbestos Exposure

LOS ANGELES — (Mealey’s) A Los Angeles jury on April 29 awarded $200 million in punitive damages to go along with $8.8 million in compensatory damages to a woman who contracted mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos on her husband’s clothing (Rhoda Evans, et al. v. A.W. Chesterton Co., et al., No. BC418867, Calif. Super., Los Angeles Co.).

The jury held CertainTeed Corp. 70 percent liable for Rhoda Evans’ mesothelioma and apportioned 30 percent of the liability to the City of Los Angeles through defendant the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power.

The jury’s punitive damages award is against CertainTeed alone.

Evans filed suit in the Los Angeles County Superior Court against numerous companies whose conduct she claimed exposed her to asbestos, resulting in her mesothelioma.  Evans alleged that she was exposed when her husband, Bobby Evans, brought asbestos home with him on his clothing after cutting asbestos-containing pipe while employed at the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power.

The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power raised a state-of-the-art defense, arguing that it didn’t know at the time of the exposure that asbestos posed a risk to installers and that it complied with existing safety regulations.  CertainTeed argued that Rhoda Evans’ disease was idiopathic and that it took steps to minimize exposure such as providing safety manuals.  CertainTeed argued at trial that it was the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power’s responsibility to ensure the safety of its employees.

Closing arguments were given April 26.  The jury deliberated for less than two days before returning the compensatory damages award on April 28, a source told Mealey Publications.  A source said the jury deliberated for just a few hours before returning its April 29 punitive damages award.

Judge Conrad Aragon presided.  A source said that after the verdict, Judge Aragon, on his own motion, asked for briefing on the appropriateness of the award.  Judge Aragon declined to enter judgment on the verdict until after the briefing.

[Editor's Note:  Full coverage will be in the May 19 issue of Mealey’s Litigation Report:  Asbestos.  For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]

For more information, call editor Bryan Redding at 610-205-1124, or e-mail him at Bryan.Redding@lexisnexis.com.