On March 25, 2009, a Los Angeles jury returned a verdict of $4,055,000 against Pneumo Abex LLC for Robert and Mary Lou Smith. (Robert Frank Smith and Mary Lou Smith v. Pneumo Abex LLC, No. BC396072, Los Angeles County Superior Court Docket)
Robert Smith worked as an automobile serviceman for Southern California Edison in Long Beach, California from 1968 to 1971. He regularly inspected, removed and replaced asbestos-containing brakes on Southern California Edison’s fleet of vehicles, causing him to breathe deadly asbestos dust. Pneumo Abex LLC manufactured many of these brakes, which Edison purchased from a local NAPA store. Mr. Smith was also exposed to asbestos while working as a truck driver from 1971 to the early 1980s hauling used brake shoes to and from a Sears, Roebuck & Co. facility.
Mr. Smith was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Kazan Law filed suit on behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Smith in June 2008. Evidence at trial showed that Pneumo Abex had been aware of the deadly health effects of breathing asbestos dust since at least the 1940s. Pneumo Abex did not begin warning its customers of those effects until years after Mr. Smith was exposed to the asbestos-containing brakes it made and sold.
Pneumo Abex was involved in medical studies regarding the health effects of asbestos at Saranac Laboratory in New York during the 1930s and 1940s and its Medical Director was a frequent speaker on asbestos health hazards during the 1940s. Despite its knowledge of the hazards of asbestos, Pneumo Abex continued to sell asbestos-containing brakes until 1987.
The jury found that Pneumo Abex defectively designed its brakes, failed to adequately warn consumers and customers of the dangers its brakes posed, and was negligent, all of which contributed to causing Mr. Smith’s mesothelioma. The jury did not assign liability to Sears.
The jury awarded Mr. Smith $900,000 for his past and future medical expenses, $480,000 for his lost income and household services, and $2,500,000 for his pain and suffering. The jury also awarded Mary Lou Smith, his wife of over 44 years, $175,000 for her loss of her husband’s support and companionship, bringing the total verdict to $4,055,000.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith were represented at trial by Kazan Law principal Phillip Harley and associates Justin Bosl and Matthew Thiel.
Court of Appeal Affirmed the Verdict
On September 17, 2010, the Court of Appeal affirmed the verdict because there was substantial evidence Robert Smith inhaled asbestos from Pneumo Abex’s brakes, which contributed to Mr. Smith’s mesothelioma. The Court of Appeal also affirmed the cancer-causation legal standard used at trial, and affirmed Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s right to collect their lawsuit costs and medical expenses.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith were represented on appeal by Kazan Law partner James L. Oberman and associate Michael T. Stewart.